même le soleil est nu by Anthony Phelps

BOMB 14 Winter 1986
014 Winter 1986

II.

Bottled country hurled out to sea
such a time for dreaming after the blood’s winding
in the whorl of funnels

Land of unreason   Powerful ground
what a day to celebrate the journey’s end
without a caravelle or look-out man

Bottled country pushed by the mowing wind
on the tide of the text
such a time for dancing in the new home
there to say yes to the voice of the corn

My land
undulating over so many unspeakable skulls
I reveal you
light and heavy strokes of my visible speech
and I am radiant for no reason
like the stained-glass window in its wrinkles of lead

 

III.

Like when the sky
starts shaping monstrous beasts
emboldened with cumulus
or when the night playing with an empty space
and a coat hung crooked
fashions a picture of terror in the dark
I hear the silent march
debris of festivals small bones of words
self-castrating sentences
I hear the foam-padded procession
of those drowned by hope

Billowing unchained always taunting
the Sea

There was a Country
There was a Town

There was a Country
whose children did not dream
Life sweated from every pore
in the shadow of noon in the wetness of noon
noon of sufficiency

But where but where
where do they go all the living
But where but where
where do they go all the drowned
victims of Agoué god with the green eyes

Uncorrupt men
they flee the polyglot shore
shore where blond crabs with their stuttered gait
find their lodging and allowance
Grammatical men
plastic hands and undressed
they flee the shore without farewells
and in their illiterate head
the promise made with rotted teeth
of tomorrows singing always da capo

O nights that bring dreams of a daily bread
Cruelness long madness over the waters
noon mutilated like windburned statements
tongue of salt and mapmakers’ skins
Grammatical men articles of my delivery
at four centuries away
the sea-born nightmare of the salt road
hemmed in by nets and traps
Death keeps watch over them A few slip by
essence of sugar and coffee
Uncorrupt men in the Caribbean dawn
on their ships of hope play losers win
and slavedealers of their own
going from one bondage to the next
they reach the flatlands of arrogance

I salute you governors of the corn
who are cheated of sugarcane cheated out of everything
by those sitting at the terrace
corner armpits to the wind all conscience perfumed
spineless spendthrifts of the vast heritage
apers of the other such awkward imitators
Grammatical men flour I make into bread
in the light of the leavened friendship
so much corn burned up with so much voodoo blood
Men without refuge far from the sacred mud of the Festivals
riders of the dead sea on your gift-bearing boats
I salute you
and conjugate you for my honor for my legend
In all humility

There was a Town
There was a Country

Taloned birds
Trees of ice
White teethmarks

On the winds from elsewhere
the dupes of the moon are singing singing
The dead listen to their words
Yet what a long way from the flower to the roots

Taloned birds
Trees of ice
White teethmarks

The dupes of the moon with rum-soft steps
drag the summer by their mortal ankles

The dupes of the moon
sing of their past in slow iodized phrases

On the winds from elsewhere
the dupes of the moon are singing singing
Caribbean heads under the hack-hack of the cold

There was a Country
There was a Town

There was a Country
where the breeze I whistled
came all at once
to take my kite soaring
into the blue of my childhood

But where but where
where does the storm go rumbling
But where but where
where does the wind go howling
wind that ravages and brings down stars

There was a Town
There was a Country

When the mouth like a moon dreaming
hides its head beneath words
when life in princely robes
turns its back to the window
even the sun
even the sun is naked

There was a Country
There was a Town

But where
But where
But where

My memory has the worst sore throat
Equivocal voracious always setting traps
the Sea

Woman-hinge
like two teenagers under the same umbrella
we use up little space
on the calendar of our Festival Angel

Green sufferings
white jaws in crests and waves
I follow Time back to my Land
ashes ceaselessly coming back to life
for the renewed plundering
The broken verse
my cracked singing
I split the wave holding on madly
Woman-hinge
my memory has the worst sore throat

Slow langorous always intruding
the Sea

Isis putting together her husband’s limbs
bulging with seed from the restitched phallus
so many centuries ago
Yesterday yesterday
Defilé-la-Folle
with the Emperor’s head under her arm
like a black Pietà

Heavy all-destroying always empowered
the Sea

Sometimes though the flayed sleeper
gathers her eyelashes
the fierce instant reinvokes then the magic of rites
darkness turns aside
exposing the soft living veins of our journeys
Because we have gone ahead Woman-hinge
bringing moon’s milk and ocean oil
in unwieldy hollow rods
Privileged diurnals rising always creeping up
the frail stem of the flute’s song
and from place to place in drier air
recognizing the perfect agreement between reed and lips
we made a path from the South to King Henry’s castle

Woman-hinge
my memory has the worst sore throat

Because we have gone ahead Woman-hinge
bringing moon’s milk and ocean oil
in unwieldy hollow rods
privileged diurnals climbing perpetually creeping
up from the frail stem of the flute in song
and from place to place in drier air
recognizing the perfect agreement between reed and lips
we made a path from the south to King Henry’s castle

A door A door
cried the King galloping over the Plain
For my Year’s End castle
I want an eye open over every day of the year
I want a tree with deep purple leaves
for my Justice with violet fruits

A ship A ship
sang the King galloping over the Plain
I want a ship made of stones
flagship anchored like a thunderbolt
at the junction of the elements

A door a door A ship a ship
shouted the King riding over the Plain
But a whistling rose from the earth’s four corners
The golden bullet blood-burst-of-cinnamon
strikes the heart breaking the gallop

The golden bullet drives the ship off course
sends it far adrift
in domesticated waters captured in canals
and the Year’s End castle
flaunts itself in all directions

A door a door A ship a ship
pleads the ghost of the King
formless sculpture of lime cane-pulp and bull’s blood
Builder King grown into the soul of mortar

A door A ship
Surging dense always embroiled
the Sea
What have we done to the flagship
with Manpinba that fought bravely
against thunder and lightning
its cannon-throat loaded with silver missiles
And the Year’s End castle
what foreign hand
will soon set it up with crutches sounds and lights

Poet with no visible heritage
one day I will soothe O woman’s task
the irritation of these fractured voices
of peasant-soldiers men with no testament
who have plummeted like lead
from the top of the Citadelle
a ship of stone ordered
for a King’s pleasure

Lord with the heart transpierced with gold
man embedded beyond doubt
I’ve no use for your titles
since to be plain pleases me
Name me Betegleuse Flamboyant or Thistle
I advance in chicken-scrawl
and keep to the letter
what risk promises

Poet with no visible heritage
I go from the orchard to the bee
from the wild herb to the pirate’s treasure
One day I’ll lull the light with sound
all this blood that snares us
One day one day
In the meantime my memory has the worst sore throat
It is the reign of new commanders
pure blacks flunkeys of the same white man

My memory has the worst sore throat
There was a Town
There was a Country

Translated by Gregor Hall.


Anthony Phelps: born in Haiti in 1929, co-founder with Davertige, Legagneur, Morisseau and Philoctête of the group Haiti-Littéraire and the periodical Semences. He helped launch the theater group Prisme and organized weekly broadcasts of poetry and theater on Radio Cacique. He was jailed and forced to leave Haiti after his release. He has been established in Montreal, Canada since May, 1964, where he works in theater and journalism. He founded a small company that puts out recordings of poetry—Les Disques Coumbite. He was recently awarded the Casa de las Americas Prize for his long poem Orchidée nègre (Black Orchid).

Five Poems by Georges Castera

Originally published in

BOMB 14, Winter 1986

Roy Lichtenstein, Jackie Winsor, art by Sarah Charlesworth, Francesco Clemente, and more.

Read the issue
014 Winter 1986