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Mark Pallas


Translated from the French by the author

Not yet burnt out? Or
is the spirit locked in the spirit?
Is it watery and made of shadow,
brunt of more cruel demands?

Nix that, I was just
remembering the drive-in
round up of pleasant
sounds, the clank of a strongbox.
I respect verifiably
the desert night. Stars
belong to no one here, at least
they speak a dialect
that turns a cold shoulder;
they are not a canopy over
the Mediterranean,
not guiding the Corsican
to his murders.

Overhead a bumpy aircraft —
talking of commerce —
in trouble, he
snivels miserably,
and a modest background
grants us a chill breeze,
ma petite chou, that brushes
the sand, and Madame
ceremoniously adores
the Magnificent Pléiade of
cowboys, the old blackjack
coach halt
poker pullout hereby

Load the load of ore,
which rift riff they sing in the
car, going home. Jerks
chatter in tree houses
but the literati stay
deep in coma with their
dial-a-poems, Latin jive: voodoo.
So says the pellet you
wash down with a stiff drink,
taking the night air
in your canvas jacket.

A color assigned to compress
the sky or crush
a gambit.
To really travel without
wondering around.
The way the pressure
quotes the delicate
check fabric
of the patented exposure
device, now Continental folk
arrive, their circulation,
the appropriate color luggage,
always leaving,

a pocket-knife in
worship pierced on scars
or the eyes at dinner-time, gloves
mask the color, always
a message
about the suburbs
of Milwaukee — but if
you weren’t supposed to
compress the skull, you weren’t supposed to
be bold or past tense,
this hard life a test
of your reading
the voice says tenderly,
now everywhere in Old Europe
leaves whisper their
fall calculus.

Mark Pallas, Dakar, 1991

Mark Pallas (the pen-name of Marc Perdeau, b.1923 in Montevideo, Uruguay), ran an air charter company in North Africa and served as a pilot with the French forces in the Indo-China war. He later worked as a photographer in Korea, Japan and China and as a stunt pilot in the US mid-west. He retired to a village in the Dordogne. ‘Scopolamine’ is from his only published volume of poetry, Déshabillé (Dakar, 1968). His Under the Horizon, a study of the South American influences on the poetry of Lautréamont, Laforgue and Supervielle (all born in Montevideo), won the 1969 Prix Coppée.
Photo: Mark Pallas, at the inaugural Francophone Poetry Conference, Université de Sénégal, Dakar, May 1967; photo © Agence Étoile Noir

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