Louis Armand


1. night passed in a room--the turnings of twilight,
turned humid, drab turned unkempt, lipstick on
perished glass. a roar in the night over the bridge
& the bellows of new jersey over the hudson
wasting down into a wasted blood-pulse...try to picture
a sky full of moral agony, everything naked. even here
i am lonely for you & our century's lucklessness--

its ghost hustles at the door. behind it a picture with
figures coupling, asleep or awake beside each other
as though beside a wasted idea--thin & pale as a cut
vein. diogenes laertus squats on the fire escape
cursing the heat. such things exist only if we read them.
who were we then? a gross noise echoing through
time, whether it be heard or not. because you

cannot believe accidents occur without consequence
for the things that aren't accidents. dogfaced
on a ledge above george washington avenue--
what should progress sound like: a knock on the door
or a bed-head butting against a wall, thelonius monk
at the five spot? the problem is not how to
kill yourself, but how to stay alive,
balanced on a thin

crust. i at least want no more than this: to isolate
the organism of paralysis, to laugh in private
at the grey distressed figure that comes from the
shadows to meet me, now that i demand
nothing of it. so much for the preamble--
is this all that dreams offer? noise mingling with strange
lucidity. & what does it matter if we melt into contr-

adiction--if the old tempers no longer with-
hold themselves but slacken into something
fleshlike, joined, in a room, compassionate for what
opposes them? or exposed to an eye that sees everything
in quotation marks--& you, who have seen it too,
stubbornly holding to the facts. as if you or i would
automatically awake & find the same evidence as before

2. an impotent wind that stirs nothing, not air--drunk
from the river's "unkempt loins"
you struggle against a pillow of broken stones
powerless even to submit.
the sound of water
is the water; dead thought, the living
echo, magnified to a realism--it
draws in all around, draws in
cage-like, a barred window for a captive. & outward
the great vista--the traffic over the bridge
a hundred thousand
mental photographs, dissolved in a moment
of a thing glad to be forgotten.
all this
fitted into the frame--the wind, the river, the naked
& strong element of a place beneath this place
locked into the fixed eye. its yellow point
keeps there like a stationary axis
for everything to turn about--a hot
revolving space & the weight that rides athwart it
bodily, inert, limbs rooted in the crouching
mind--deep in a night where
thunder wells below the river. only it does not rain

3. it begins with a sound like a great
granite monolith cracking & throbbing of engines.
dawn's grey fuselage spewed open--
a sea bashes down on the roofs with
its full tonnage. is the world ending? you lay there
like someone who'd died with their eyes open.
not ending, then. the paterson express
broken down in the middle of the intersection
at george washington bridge.
an argument rises up against the storm, a
blaring of horns. have men's minds changed?
the hearer drew away from it
waiting for everything to pass--as everything must

our time is auspicious for scapegoats
-zygmunt baumann

a revenge-like moment followed by the
compassionate grin, the soothing fable:
"that things are indeed as they seem"--
concise histories of an oversight too
complete not to have been accidental.
you also are to blame, if only for wishing
otherwise: digging in the old trunk
where the stories were kept-the ones
that always had an alibi prepared for
the lacklustre hero, hat & coat
& blond nemesis. there they stand
on a boardwalk with cut-out bathing
costumes & chiselled good looks: yellow
stars light up their breasts where rib-
cages undulate with great cascading
shadows & tide marks groove the sand
around the open shower blocks. yellow
& maroon flags & beach umbrellas & a
lifeguard who grinned at you then--
perched high on his umpire's chair blue--
eyed & muscular. had no-one drowned
that day, no sharks been sighted, no
submarine broken the bottle green rim
of the sea--who can say if it might not
all have ended differently


scarred sheets, they lay out in squares
on the rockstrewn beach
under a redoubt, timbers rooted in the
breech between tidemark & ebb

& upturned hulls--pristine
from before the war
they lie senseless there with dusk
petering out, keels planed back against

a stew of knotted bodies, coppergreen
all toughened
sinew & raw underflesh. what god
did they glory in their kill? they are like

a tribe of homer gone to seed.
inharmonious voices
plucked on an achilles tendon &
canned laughter receding up the hillside.

a motor cuts-out, a voluble
backfire, what life but this?--scale
blackened among the embers, gutstrings
scavenged by stalking nightgulls,

fisherman's mutts. they too
have their mythic demeanors, observed
from a distance, unsure for whom
their rite is performed


you were distressed? someone in a newspaper
had been shot for the wrong reasons. remember
that scene from pierrot le fou; the village
was obviously a fake, even the postcard

is unconvincing. in tokyo they expect you
to provide all the data in advance. this is how
it would ideally appear: a crowd on a
boulevard overwhelmed by choices--she

was bowled-over, he was fed-up with
waiting around. a flock of pigeons
monopolising the stairs, a murmuration
of starlings. the elevators were supposed to be

unique; we hung there suspended on a string
while everything below circulated.
a pair of scissors would have been enough, but
night was falling, there was nothing to see

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