November 1998

Louis Armand

photo unavailable Louis Armand has appeared in Infernal Cinders (1993) and The Zone (1994). His most recent book is The Viconian Paramour (x-poezie, 1998).  He currently serves on the editorial board of The Prague Revue.
The Vanishing Syndrome

i.m. Miroslav Holub, 1923-1998

i'm never sure of reaching you...
all of these letters — i should be able to say
that as i speak i limit the world
but it's useless to try to integrate life &
death & to act rationally — which is what
might be meant by "becoming human"
as opposed to pseudo-dionysius
who considered that god transcends
contraries & this dictum was taken up
by nicholas of cusa as the clearest definition
of divinity: "you must regard the centre
& poles as coincident — using the help
of your imagination as much as possible..."
(as they say, apprehension takes place
as a movement between seeing
& uncertainty...) — for example today
i'm trying not to draw analogies
between the sky & a statistical curve
or flight paths or mechanised
& anonymous histories (do you think
i'm being ironic?) — but no, there are other
people, single strangers or crowds
appearing continuously — when they are not
seen they are heard — which leads me to believe
momentarily in a collective witnessing of
events (monsieur armand, vous delirez!) —
& this in a country still suffering
after thirty years of paranoid schizophrenia —
it's true (as a friend recently said to me
prague is like a giant potemkin village) —
which accounts for the sense of
ostranenie even while crossing the street
(any street) or entering a tabak (to buy
a packet of gauloises?) — it's the same thing
played out in every american cafe...
frida kahlo's monkey stares from the pages
of a fashionably retro magazine
(one reads about trotsky's assassination
it must have been the anniversary —
ambivalence?) — holding a cigarette that way
the eye of it looking up through the
window the orange halo of a streetlight
it's raining again & grown dark —
i sit down at a corner table to write this
thinking about the seductions of amnesia —
the first time we met (in a room
overlooking "red army square") it had been
another anniversary — jan palach’s funeral—
"so the counting out began" you said
"to separate the sane, who / veil themselves
in words, from the insane, who rip off /
feathers from their bodies..."
& i can’t help remembering the story
about a swan doused in petrol & set alight
by drunken soldiers — the hopeless flapping
of its wings & the vltava's calm indifference —
but that isn't what i wanted to tell you
(bored with the absurd & the too poignant
"tragedy"?) no, i wanted to tell you the joke
about the great czech poet whose death,
like his poetry, was acclaimed mostly
in translation (i enclose for your amusement
copies of the obituaries published
in the prague newspapers)... as someone
said once: "that is no land for old men..."
or perhaps i should quote mayakovsky
who died young & wrote: "dans mon ame pas
un cheveau blanc / aucune douleur senile..."
but there’s nothing unexpected in that,
besides it’s getting late & the writing —
you know the saying — is on the wall: vychod
sortie ausgang exit... "ET ILS, ONT TOUS



Louis Armand: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FiveThe Cortland Review