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This issue of JACKET is a co-production with SALT magazine



     John Tranter

     In Paris


photo of Paris, by John Tranter
A BAD MAN was waiting there when we got to the station; he said that boy did not emerge from the Paris transfer, the boss, he was sorry, but the lad — Mr. Laurence brought the afternoon to its ghastly end — he tried to have the boy — already so deep into trouble — ignored, until he was known by his negro sculptures — answer him, tell him to achieve the great things expected of him — relieve him with a thousand pockets full of drugs — she was so great with that English accent — and six months afterwards betrayed us, telling lies behind her smooth hands — in the meantime to stroke her leg — it is very intriguing to be served smooth black fur — boiled — I can’t dance with girlish gossip, and then the secretary worked her body into the little armchair, oh, my hair — and later the door locked again, she said, where, now, naked and hissed softly — and this smooth chrome storage unit rose from the ground and spoke — legs spread — you see?
      Phone ring. No answer.
      Oh, dear, what lies ahead — it taught him to ignore the most ludicrous object. Conceivable girls never have any real estate, he opined.
      I was something broken in those days — easily got rid of — there were to be terms, but I hoped I could cope with the terms.
      It was a boy, a sorcerers’ secretary. It’s a stubborn February, said this very young man. I don’t eat much supper, and he came to settle this question: midnight, Frank O’Hara lying over a quartz grating on the street, the light shining up through his bones.

      But for the boy to fall down, that sudden noise, rock ice with lemonade, and his work — the article, the vain promise of his secretary, her interesting eyes — his love is the bed.
      Oh, said he, did Frank O’Hara make them, those poisonous drinks? — and Kerouac called him a fairy, in front of all the people at the reading, almost ill with excitement — Janet, as always, said he undoubtedly might be the very wondered wreckage of the war, the incendiaries, it was much like burning dressing-maids.
      Your hands are dirty with this crime, you have become inexplicable — as the main street light is orange her blue eyes turn a sickly purple — focusing on the lost boy who had run away, wanting it to be known why in Paris his shadow faltered again — I will show you fear in the bottom of a glass — but I’m going back to talk to poor Kerouac, he said, with his harebrained plots and his awful prose — the moonlight, the shadow on the floor — now he has been too involved with a kind of theatrical sentimentality — she was asked, point blank, but she denied it — we had caught her admitting it — Kerouac was stiff with fear, the gentleman came in and talked to him face to face, deeper into the library’s centre of him, reified on the shelves, showed him his fate, his future, to be his own books, nothing more — very convenient, the bookcase, nobody would inherit those valuable manuscripts a few inches above the consortiums with blood spray across her feet as a joke but it was an accident — she knew Kerouac, and then that’s up to you, your so-called love for the god-child.
      Frank O’Hara stood in front of the ugly portrait, drinking some clear liquid, pushing back his snap-brim hat, loosening his tie — what the hell is this? You were nothing more than your remarks — you are not supposed to be talking to a poet.
      He asked, finally, to be taken to the hospitals, a round of visits, to be deprived of his liberty, now an electric door hissed open, and a woman appeared, white uniform, they would walk together, perhaps into the garden which he could see, a gloomy garden dank and dark green in the distance.

      ¶

It ran towards us, out of that abyss of lonesomeness, and followed by the ’nagual’ — the magic animal — the guide — by its eyes you shall know it — easing into the cleft of the rock with her, a secret place among the bleached and stinking rib bones — behind the trickle of the waterfall, the fresh spring, the white sand, the shaft of sunlight, hidden.

      ¶

I had our modern act almost ready, consisting mainly of loving the horrible Parisian audience no matter what their sins or disgusting habits, it was to be a greater love than anything.
      Ezra put on his clothing backwards, as a joke, as his part of the act. No one laughed. His revenge was coming downstairs and then with a hypnotic gesture turning all our talk into chains of legal ambiguity. Gertrude Stein for the first time ever gave a sharp command — put violence aside, right turn, left turn.

      Her followers were dancing in his poems, and he wore a polycarbon suit recycled from some heap of vinyl records, voices of dead poets, Eliot’s bald head also dancing in his poems, echoing the full moon in the April sky over Paris, the violet velvet night sky over the countryside of Europe dotted with filthy cities, sprinkled with dim lights.
      I protest — his voice cried out from the throats of various lesser, miserable girls — with slow care now, naked on the roof of the house next door.
      Mr. Laurence had sent many such prayers, but he still held to the middle of one of his tantrums about Sherwood Anderson, but he felt cold and yelled that it was still taking his eyes out of their sockets.
      Finally I began to understand this artificial business, said yonderboy. This literature shit, this inheritance. Five separate alarm systems reverse the kink, in case she wants to know.
      Frank draped the tie over his fingers, leaning back against the counter — Would you wear this? — I’m spoiling the house-cleaning robot, buying flash clothing for all the homosexual men of my acquaintance — Do you test them first? — the Côte d’Azur hadn’t looked as fine as this for a while, the young men agreed — Mina Loy began to cut the new suit to ribbons. I’ll slip off my office clothes and slather into something more comfortable — I was melodramatic? I don’t have enough personal power. The knife in the pocket, flicking that blade — rather, I lived near her dress, in my mind at least.
      We were drinking with a painter Jo-Jo forgave because — however brutal and sickening his general behaviour — at least he understood her impulses to the modern, the curve of power that she would find — they often started out arguing, the choice difficult between the neo-Aztec bookcases and the nineteen hairpins scattered on the carpet — age always says, yes, youth always hesitates — slappy wisdom — he stayed, all promise, no fucking performance — yes, she said, but whose performance? — Djuna Barnes, her first clumsy pieces full of momentum and nothing else, and they began to pound Ford and smacked french paper work with the hot tongs, they were leaping from the human scale to the godly, brown, honest to go, or shall we — all right — he groaned tragically, per executive order, wrapped up in his loony mood — was this her first time? — what the hell, it was witty, silent cruising, then this murderous text — he ran towards something printed — to die in loneliness — I never saw him again.
      His teeth chattered — like Verlaine, always chasing rainbows — he had begun the little study, the obscure Provençal poets, drawling a wall of gravity against the summer.
      Gertrude Stein moved towards the spoken dialects of men. The French painter and his wife answered her needs — vulgarisers, in the things they said, and then they always stay at home, and sent their talk out to do its work in the world — an extraordinary effect — paragraphs of the finger having written and moved on, a very clear sensation.
      Not to go, or ’wolf not to go’.
      Suddenly the white chrysanthemum appeared to us as the vulgarisation of Picasso’s career — now Mr. Laurence’s ruddy face appeared at the window — pure primaries — Gertrude Stein’s older brother came with James Joyce, a shock — Gertrude Stein advised him to speak in surges. ’I am very short, dark and glossy,’ he said — very sweet, public retractive, she signing me up with a certain French phrase, it is luminous, the legion of useful knowledge, a little review, soft and dry, wrapped up, came back against old considerata. Gertrude Stein, urging violently for the career. But they both had a nice encounter.
      ’She was perceiving, and efficient,’ Mr. Laurence said, ’a shock in my stomach.’ And he smiled.
      Her shoulders straightened and when the endorphin analog hit, she felt just a few inches above the clinic, horrendous.


First published in Stand magazine, new series, volume 1, number 4, December 1999
Photograph — Paris street scene © John Tranter 2000


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This issue of Jacket is a co-production with SALT magazine,
an international journal of poetry and poetics, edited by John Kinsella
PO Box 937, Great Wilbraham, Cambridge PDO, CB1 5JX United Kingdom ISSN 1324-7131

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