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Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris

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Pierre Joris

«Justifying the Margins» & «poems»

Introductory note: The following poems by Pierre Joris were selected for their direct or indirect connections with Justifying the Margins. [Peter Cockelbergh]

Pierre Joris

From: Meditations on the Stations of Mansour Al-Hallaj 1-21 (2007)]

7. exaltation (tarab)

to gain air
is his exaltation

in inches as
tarab is not.
we do what

we can, altitude
is not attitude,
I let you know

though I have no
saving ordinance, am
not a latter day

saint, though there’s
essential dignity
in the simple

way each one
of us exults his
house or this day,

raising it high
but not higher
than high.

16. witnessing (shuhud)


no, I don’t want to.
it is all you can do.

who are you to tell
me what I did. you

saw nothing. you
were not there. I

was. He or she are
the necessary third

let them tell me or
you what the all is

you or me did do.
no one witnesses.


so, you don’t want to.
it is all I can do.

who am I to tell
you what I did. You heard

nothing. my eyes
were closed, you

saw nothing either I
was not there or you

were and what if so I
closed my ears.

Why should you want to.
You heard nothing.

I saw it all. He or
she are the necessary

third party, she said
now I’ve heard it all.


[From: The Book of Luap Nalec (1982)]


(… )

somewhere a door closes.
I am not awake
alone  .  I am

thinking of
you, lady
la nuit américaine
I’m thinking

the strong body of America arched
night over an ephectic Europe

‘e n t r o p o c e p h a l u s’

God’s peace, Benn, would have that coin
(age that knew the brain’s skin
Roman des Phänotyp:
played Doktor
wrote Morgue

Celan dares
go further, Faden
sun through
his breath


to water.

How dare you
past the bright
wound mirror?
where you
single counter-
the floated
the lines.

broke us
      saddled us
with a sadness
(post-modern, no,

post-mortem) its
vigor the rigor
of water now
frozen, the white
silenced sheet,
place I search
to find
the shifted

Sight threads sense shreds
from the folded image knit
behind time:
             invisible enough
to see you, you came
through all the walls
you came turncoat eye

eye turned
inside out
of which
I see

Scintillation of
my she break
the thin
        the ice-white
        an angled slit
reverses where
we were.
               From where
               (here & there)


the shifter, am spoken
these chambers -
a quartering
of words
       badly bruised
     & water-logged
but I must keep
on talking keep

your name
changeling, maiden

what is
your name
what is is
shimmers, stammers
on the vocal-cords-bridge, in the
Great Inbetween
with all that has room in it
even without speech?

Antara you call

yourself there
Lady of the Gate
& here
of the Lady
which Nalec
lately hither-
despite all
by the breath of
the shifting ice.

Out of a dream of drowning
the drowning,
of a dream the contra-
read us into meeting
in the Serpentcoach
takes us
      once past
your white cypress
through the cypher-

     Thus break the ice
to know.
Though we had met
before it had been
in you
from birthseed
out, till now when
I in you
whom open
you enter
now through him
at last
     you climb
in me
up the dark
memory shaft
     you climb
to the day.

Light entered me
lit the walls
of the cave
I was. A fistful
of consonants
drifts from mouth to
mouth, in-
     the lightbeams
dance them
     word where
the vowels wait
obedient to the light
syllable by syllable
the loud heartthread
is trembled
     Your voice
declares itself -
I begin
to witness
at the end

of a long day

done  .  done .  done  .


[From: Hearth-Work (1977)]

            place of
seed & syllables :
                            they are
     what it is
     all about.
                    swarming  /  all about
     the multitude of morning
     embers                                        fire-particles
                     the swarm, the warm
            animals dancing
     the flames.

          warm-blooded, thus this round
     & dance,
                  how to, how to stomp,
            how to work
     fire from earth.

        futharks & fire
                     incunabula  nel mezzo
     mi retrovai
                        the way is the voice
             not ‘sotto’
                                ear the im . ter . mediate
        still center
                                                  heaped earth matters
                                             where the hair is parted
                                         now ends sing,
            singed for mis-
                              managing the fire
           we pass
                     thru :
                     again & a
             (thos,  ‘listening with the heart’

             hearth work is heap, heat  /  the slag
     of the daily life,
                              the cinders needed
       cradle of tomorrow’s fire
                the small eternal matter
the measure
                          flares up!


                                               (evening, now, around, the, fire
     how do we get
                     to the bone
            of the matter within
              cutting the flesh
     spilling the blood             spreading
                     without & within  .  how do we
     track the narrow path
     leads to the marrow

            we stare into the fire

                     furry flame   whirling   dervish
     dance of matter
     how many dancers
     on a pin
     through the brain the grey
     matter of dawn
     leads to the spine
     sympathetic torque awhirl

            petrified knowledges
            our forefathers the Incas’
            forefathers practiced

     a scar-alphabet spelling secret
                     spilling sacred
            runes of pain --
                              then hair growth
            hides the past or the
     car accident, the mad dance, the cracking
                     boulders, the falling

     the future entangled in our hair

            we will not speak of grass or earth

                    these matters require
discourse that more than verges
     on the political.

                the context is access
            the text the right
     of way
       the open lay
            of the land
                              as the wolf pack closes in
     el lobo sniffs the roots
     of your hair
    pisses on the flames
     of your hearth
                                  the moon is his excuse
                                        dampen the spirits
                    of those lunatics
                  (does not, wants not, to see that
                              the moon is

                                            his projection
     as el lobo the lunatic takes revenge
     makes the women bleed
     & beats their faces
     to a bloody pulp
     when they do not let him
fuck them in their / his
     unclean state.


[3 excerpts from: Canto Diurno #3: Ode à/to Jack Kerouac]

à/to Jack Kerouac
ode bilingue

tout Kerouac
deux as
sans volant,
son cosas
de tristessa, la
vida goes
on as I
start 6:06 a.m.
23 June 1999 from
Joey’s Riverside Restaurant
dawn sunny side up
in truckstop 23
(nous aimons fermer la Noël)
mais ce n’est que la
pré-Saint Ti Jean
a day for Jack
lapsed Buddhist
hitchhiked 1000 miles
histoire de
t’apporter du vin
histoire de
mourir /
il y a 30 ans
il y a 45 ans
tu écrivais (235 Chorus):
“Je sais que je suis mort.
Je ne camperai pas. Je suis mort maintenant.
   Qu’est-ce que j’attends pour disparaître?… ”
30 years ago – & aujourd’hui
ici aux chiottes
c’est écrit:
“Colfax Driver Sucks”
(dans la bouche, oui,
dans le cul, non,
la sexpol de Jack)
graffiti & café
une carte dé-
roule la route
drive to Lowell
dark shades in bright
a.m. rising
sun, in the house
           Jack’s nights
mon teenage dream
of America
             mon truck stop blues
un blues for Jack
gone these thirty years now
& Allen gone
& William gone
mais reste Gregorio
in Nueva Yorkio
spitting smack in the face
of death,
reste Sanders
à Woodstock workin’
for the city
et puis
Claude à Binghamton
careening down
Carotid Bypass  —


sous le signe:
             Cashier / Take Out
Signe pour
départ immédiat, sun-
struck in Plaza 23 & à 8:15
arrêt à Blanchard MOBIL station
of no cross I hope
along Mass Turnpike la
table en bois d’où je veux t’écrire
déjà inscrite:

            “Opinion is a flitting thing
                        L’opinion est chose passagère
            But truth, outlasts the Sun  —
     Mais la vérité, dure plus que le soleil  —
            If then we cannot own them both  —
                        Si donc nous ne pouvons les posséder toutes deux —
            Possess the oldest one  —
                        Possédons la plus ancienne — ”
Emily Dickinson
“Poème utilisé avec permission”
nom gravé sur le banc sous mon cul,
le soleil, Jack, est le plus vieux
de tous, mais comment le
posséder? Ce chaud
matin d’été
vertes forêts & collines
du Massachusetts
plis sur plis tout autour
de la voiture,
open as I ride,
sweet tender light
            gobbles us up,
in intimations of
la même vieille

*         *          *

Walked downtown Lowell
            to highschool
(insert picture here)
            to monument
(insert picture here)
& now at 112 Gorham
            once Nicky’s
   & thus Jack’s watering hole
now Ricardo’s Eye-
            talian restaurant --
R’s father, ex-mayor of Lowell,
   now 82, is mentioned in On
            The Road,
                        Sez Ricardo’s manager,


            (insérer image ici)
drive-through stations of the cross
life-size Katholick Guilt,
l’horreur, l’horreur,
pauvre Ti Jean caught  & killed
by that trip
malgré les Golden Buddhist Scriptures
of other Eternities,
drove out to cemetery
j’ai foncé jusqu’au cimetière
kneeled in front of
the plaque, 2 cannettes vides,
1 empty sweet peach brandy bottle
1 twisted fork,
2 notes gribouillées: Dear Jack...
3 candle butts
drove back Al-
wondering where to insert
Yves Buin’s line
“J’ai croisé un visionaire
            et nous avons fait quelques pas.’
Le pas, le pas
le suivre au, ne pas
n’est-ce pas là
la difficulté  —
Comment trouver
cette forme sauvage
“la seule forme
qui contienne ce que j’ai
à dire”
pour écrire des lignes parfaites comme
“welkin moon wrung salt
upon the tides of come-on nights  — “
ou encore comme tu
l’as écrit à Allen: “Forget
the facts and think
of the things, all the
things.”  — “Oublie les faits
et pense
aux choses, à toutes les
Et là je pense à toi,
Jack, la chose-Kerouac,
la prose-Kerouac, l’amer-


[From: Justifying the Margins’ essay “Where is Olson Now?”]

               The Sanctuary of Hands

    to cut beneath the humdrum
               to get language on the road
     to dig through the layers
               from last night’s lost dream to
               a Byzantine arch six hundred
               years old, a carefully
               constructed something, a
               Ciceronian sentence, a habit
               of daily diagnostics meant
    to work language
               mano a mano
               to breckel (letzebuergesch for) to
               gently crush some thing between
               thumb and forefinger into
               crumbs to feed the pigeons
               & geese that press close in
          the elaborate-starved gang-
               ways of hunger-mind.

               mano a mano into the double
               cave of Gargas
                his fiction is of wild-he
               & here the of Aventignan,
                is propriétaire & gestionnaire of the mouth
                of that earhly swallowing-up.
               Herein the long conduit
               hands on walls
               blown clear shadows against
               stone all dated 27000
               years ago give or take
               four centuries.

               The countdown gives
                   of 231 of hands,
                          in negative & imprint,
   show mutilations of or more ,
                          only ten show no
deficiency in joints.
                          The remaining , preserved
                          through the millennia
                         as to whether not.

                There are right hands, there are left hands,
          hands of women, hands of men, hands
                of children

                Note: all thumbs are present,
                none mutilated,
                ah, the opposable (self-)definition of the human  —
                these are

                        Cro-Magnon hands, fingers folded
               in silent code as paint is blown
            from mouth or bone to frame
               a hand  —

                  language of bent
               fingers decodes the layers of
             humans’ understanding of
               humans  —

               if early is primitive, claims
                        mutilation in savage ritual Leroi-Gourhan’s
                          theory wants to rhyme
                          finger mutilations with silent
            hand code signals of
                          Kalahari Bushmen hunters’
                          info re presence :
              Three folded middle fingers
                          spell "gazelle", middle alone
                        "giraffe", an
                       hand no fingers bent says

                          or illiterate primitivism bias backed by
   Catholic Church in Franco-cantabrian area

                need therefore to insist on
                full linguistic & symbolic competenceof paleo-humans

           if early is sickly, the claims
                        line up a delirious vademecum of modern medicine:
                        in the 1950ies, Paul A. Janssen championed Raynaud’s disease
                        others ogledacute arthritis,
                          arthritis, arteriosclerosis, ,
                          diabetic gangrene, obstructive thromboangiitis.
                                    One Ali Sahly adds
                  (hereditary, but affecting only
                          the fifth finger & mainly known amongst male
                          Negroes in the tropics), leprosy (unlikely, because the metacarpals
                        do not seem
                          affected at Gargas), acrocyanosis,
and several afflictions as chilblains and

                                    if early is rich culture birth read
               the missing fingers joints as folded in silent
language code

               for writing is early

               though correlations for
                recurring combinatorial patterns
remains to be done (find Hans Bornefeld’s 1994
                        The Keys to the Caverns:  — only one copy in this country!

               for writing is early
               as early as language
               & the archeology of
               morning needs credit
               Cro-magnon meander
               which complicates mother
                — nature or capital M,
               goddess, black or white  —

               & the shamaness knows the ‘rooms
               Clayton winds his way through
            “In Gargas a quester writhed through, or ate mushrooms, or
             fell asleep,  we will never know,
               he turned himself into a uterine double,
               he located the sole gate of access to paradise
               he dived to the bottom of the sea,
               followed a bear into a grotto, had the sense to listen to
                 a hedgehog, we will forever know
               the beautiful U-turn of his journey”

      he went in a boy
               came out a girl,
or vice-versa,
our first messengers,
ur-Hermes, herm-aphrodite
writes with both hands
& mouth
sings paint
through bone.

               woman, oh that
               Olson’s demand to Boldereff
            “why don’t you put this history together...
                she’s the CLUE, she, our SUMER GIRL!”
               had been followed up in 1950

   so that we could be done with
               the “hunting hypotheses”
            (there was no hunting in the caves,
         the hands the hands!

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