by Lukáš Tomin
illustrated by Alf Van der Plank
Le Coude Fou artists overspilled on to the narrow pavement, sprawling coolly over the bonnets of cars. Inside there
was nowhere to sit, it being the hour of the educated eater. Bohemian men in their forties crowded the bar, hurling
abuse at one another. Their trained lungs swallowed Gitane after Gitane, and their trained livers bottle after bottle.
All men of distinction and family money, powdered wives and poodles waiting, waiting for a simple cotton pair of
youthful knickers. All, that is, except Andre. Hair greasy for lack of showers, clothes dirty for lack of washing
machines, eyelids drooping for lack of beds, pockets stuffed with innumerable newspapers, Andre was silent. He, too,
was vaguely waiting for a youthful pair of simple something but as to the powdered wife and poodle.
There are heaps of many things. There are heaps of cars. one car is a heap. Olina sat in her heap, forehead on the wheel, the dog's paws on her shoulders, the dog's tongue working her neck. Je suis triste.
How many months or days or hours or minutes have passed? The one hundred franc note, pressed smooth between the palms of my hands. I am a straight-backed cavalry officer with nothing to do, with heaps of money, without a heap, with sleep to go through. With a day to go through and, changing the note in a bistro, Suma had a beer he could call his own. Looking through the foam-topped gold he did not think of Philip or Andre, he thought of Her, old. Old, my rejected one and only? Or is this all some kind of a coup? The white shadow a projection of somebody's poison? A derelict rock crumbling in an oil stain. Two bodies, blood gathering in belly buttons, huddled together, fishless. Oh Princess Nica, my Indian squaw, I have skinned a rabbit for you and buried it in the sand for protection.
The Seine is bubbling her heavy mud-bath sigh. I feast on the odours of her gases.
There are venial sins and menial tasks. Both prides of the English diminutive. Concha does not have to wear a crown.
But the point is. The point surely is. That Her is not on that rock.
Thick snails crawl through my ear-drums like invisible ghosts, forming congestions at the back of my throat. I have not yet established whether their actions are positive.
Dust covers up my steps.
Brains splashed on trains. Back to normal in less than fifteen minutes.
But the point surely is.
Washing machines matter very much.
Also hifi machines and Oxford dictionaries.
And empty paper.
And crude awakenings.
And hot summer afternoons.
And Chinese girls in the evening.
And cigarettes in the mouth.
And the dying of lungs.
The bar in this place is wooden but the ceiling is zinc and when I tilt my head backwards I see Suma liking his refound image. It is the image of the changing note. Zinc reflections, however, are imprecise.
Tossing in bed somewhere with radios for pillows the madmen are happy. Elle est triste.
Out on the boulevard she and he are holding hands. Dirty, sticky hands from night's unwashed kisses. It is morning, now.
Tell me, traveller on toothpick legs, how far is it from la Tour St. Jacques to Spain?
It depends where you wanna go, don't it? Lovey.
Early morning beers in early morning bars, cobblestones uncovered, stumbling blocks, CVs, your jet black coarse hair in the palms of my hands, cigarettes, waiters called George, les fins d'une nuit blanche, angels fallen firmly on the ground, voyeurs, croissant bespattered beards, wild boars, stuffed. Les bateaux mouches, unlit it being day, already transporting headless passengers to fill in the cracks in ancient walls. Je suis francais, mesdames et messieurs, mais vous ne le savez pas.
It's the height of the trees.
I am French and I like the good things in life. I would like to skate on iced-over Seine but she never freezes any more on account of the warmth of the corpses. It is not even winter. Calmly paddling in her small canoe, a satin sleeve trailing in the dirt she smiles at me standing on the right bank although it feels like the left bank as I am looking upstream towards Notre Dame. I will not swim to her, however, I have to save the strength of my arms for the manyheaded sea.
There is a beer which can be dated to 1664. There are other beers which can be dated to even earlier dates. Smoke curls up and vanishes through the too low ceiling. Oh my beloved, this poem is for you.
© Twisted Spoon Press
© Lukáš Tomin
illustration © Alf Van der Plank