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J.P. Auxeméry

Odyssey, 1 to 8

translated by Nathaniel Tarn

Odyssey 1

to Jean Michel Rabaté

The glass offered by Goethe to the absolute
in which the dark joins itself
to the child of light — I see it,
I see myself in it. — From myself separated
only by this fragile prison — if I break it,
I disappear me; and if I am submitted
to its clear misfortune, though drinking it,
I become transparent, I read myself athwart
in the darkness of myself looking at myself,
and swallowing myself, black flame of me,
diaphanous heart of what I am, strange
stranger within he whom I see.

Odyssey 2

To read the world as one stammers, stumbling
at each step, fall from one’s full height,
decipher oneself as sign written in sand, and
read oneself world and all the figures of power
as of beauty, of fear as of joy,
to read oneself a child well beyond midnight
when ghosts relaunch the world, and
be origin alone, and designate only
any end with the aim of being only a new start,
to be only that unending march toward
a clear reading laden with effects of one’s previous
language, be possible then and only, be
meaning to come, on the move and limping.

Odyssey 3

Body is name, and name is origin,
matrix, and it’s the place where one will have been,
and is no longer, where everything is to become
other only, and so a name is always the name
of another, one only knows oneself well by one’s name,
in the very place from which one never ends outing,
altogether similar to what one no longer is,
altogether different from what one is, in one’s name
only his own infinite birth, and each becomes
that fully empty carcass wherein a very other self
looks at itself, or sees it, as other, there.

Odyssey 4

Behind the lens, the eye passes
from pure solicitation of moving forms
and color nuances, of flesh and fur and
leaves to the progressive intaglio, incised,
in the already puissant alchemy of negatives, in the bath,
in the unarguable mattering of what has just
ceased to appear, the image being developed
tells us exactly this — what the eye sees
is never more than run-through matter of reality,
during a fusion, and that the locus where
the meaning of all this is focus, where will burn,
consume itself, destroy itself, reveal itself that
which must come to be, this line of light outing from
animal, mineral, vegetal beings, that sketch,
that plan, that black which melts, in which the verso
of living stuff of beings fixes itself, their truth.

Odyssey 5

The machine is at work, and heaves, the track
runs by, thins out in confusion under the body
of the machine, one goes toward, one leads toward,
one vertigoes oneself pursuing that line
of very concrete meaning to a horizon
perpetually fleeing — bars of tuff banks,
enormous carpets of gold grass, red
shoulders of great basalt bodies,
the machine runs off ahead toward
its own extenuation, it runs on the arena
against the unresisting, the self-effacing,
the machine groans, brays, chews up landscape,
the whole corpus runs and is about to know
that which is not, one’s in the machine’s body,
one witnesses one’s birth, one leads toward,
one is the line that vertigoes itself to life, to death.

tuff, n. Geol. a fragmental rock consisting of the smaller kinds of volcanic detritus, as ash or cinder, usually more or less stratified. Also called volcanic tuff.

Odyssey 6

to Philip Grover

This is the fabric of reality, Pound inventing
American history as one might cook a dish,
a pungent soupcon of Confucianism mixed
in with the recurrent acidity of condotierri
out of an era of great turbulence — and
it is also Segalen photographing stelae
lost in their tomb of loess, and also he who signs this:
periplae in the process of achievement, a matricial name
laid on diverse periplae between deserts and cities,
rivers and mountains, between full daylight
to recognize and this whole painful night
in which the peoples drown — we must identify
ourselves, we wanderers of Europe in confusion.

Odyssey 7

But the cloth, the true fabric is there
where I await myself, invisible to myself.
I love, you were saying, the peoples whose nakedness
sings, — and strengthened with this adage, you worked
at weaving — that’s it — your legend. And you
are also he who, of your peoples, knows only the gods
whose image haunts you, and soon falls off,
only the women you once desired and then did not
only the cities you cut yourself off from and the rivers
you exhausted — from following their flow
down to the ocean where everything conglomerates and
loses memory of that which is. And if your peoples
sing, it will be in your memory; if they are naked
it will be because you will have worn away
from self as from themselves their whole humanity -
and we’ll at last be given back our definite passenger status.
We shall have become words, sounds, cracks in the cloth,
breath shortages. With rifts in cloth, legends
no longer warm with faith — over and done with.

Odyssey 8

to Michael Palmer

And disappear, disappear, from now on. A poem
which does not lead to its speaker’s or writer’s disappearance
won’t satisfy its nature as a trace. Disappear,
let the trace alone remain, pathetic crystallization
of signs and sounds. Rub out, disappear — and the signs
are off running backward on the screen, this woman
in the street keeps shouting “cash, cash!” absurdly,
the sign machine goes on weirding out minds and bodies.
Heads cut, mauve suns, blood puddles, distress and vomit.
Disappear in the shining, disorder at the edge
of cities where these people — the headless bodies run.
I no longer exists but for this I no longer exist, I am
nothing, nor no one, I no longer move, I have traversed,
I shall be back, I shall have spent my worth, as I had
tasted once the treasures of my diverse peoples.

Photo of  J.P. Auxemery J.P. Auxeméry is a French poet born in 1947. He lived in Africa for some years but, though he continues to travel extensively, he is now a teacher on the French Atlantic Coast. His publications include Le Centre de Gravité (Bedou,1983); le feu l’ombre, (Bedou, 1987); Parafe (Flammarion, 1994) and Codex (Flammarion, 2001). ‘Odyssey’ is from the latter volume.
      J.P. Auxeméry has translated a great deal of American poetry: Pound, Olson, H.D., Spicer, Reznikoff, Koch, du Plessis, Scalapino, Eshleman and Michael Gizzi among others. Peter Broome included him in a study Flames of Flammarion: Moses, Bénézet, Auxeméry in Australian Journal of French Studies. A translation of Al Kemit, a text from Parafe by Charlotte Mandell appeared in Boxkite 2. Translations in the States have appeared in Sulfur, First Intensity, etc.

Jacket 22 — May 2003  Contents page
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