Wednesday 20 June 2012

Second part of 'Susette' by the Flemish writer Erik Spinoy

KASSEL - DRIBURG - KASSEL (July - September 1796)

1  Freckles
2  The bed of love
3  Documenta
4  The Land of Cockaigne
5  Parade
6  The Kassel Apollo
7  Melancholia
8  Cure for two
9  Unconscious evening
10  Breaking mirrors

(July - September 1796)

1        Freckles

Since then there lives a magpie, chattering
in my breast. Its beady eyes gleam brighter than
the evening star. My breath starts heaving like a
bellows. The wild boar paces back and forth,
growing in strength. The squirrel climbs the tree-tops.

In ever-widening circles the world is
roused from slumber. Treaties have been
swept away like cobwebs by the armies.
An enthusiast writes to his brother:
‘Here comes unity, noble fraternity.
I know I’m closer, to the Ideal.’

And Frankfurt fears the French revenge.
Near Friedberg fire and smoke of battle rise.
The emperor yields. The wounded are all carted off.
And then the flight begins, for good.

Two stout chests with dresses, perfume, white fur,
my veils, my shoes, sets of clean underclothes
sail out of the room. I hear a whip that cracks
in agitation. And Cobus kisses my ring.
I step into the phaeton.

Behind us clouds of dust swirl up in gusts.
Before my eyes - Friedrich’s thighs, on the box.

2        The bed of Love

Wipe Frankfurt off the map, let Cobus be
spirited away. My body lies in corn,
blond and ripe. Its heat drinks dry the lake of
recollection. Forget, this body is as
timber, brown and hard. Announce that summer dwells
in him. That summer makes him melt.

That summer dwells in him
and makes him melt.

3        Documenta

His eye is like the sun - a hole, a breach
in the morning red. Then I can discern pale
pillars and white friezes. Has Kassel been erased
by Hellas? Take this lip. Its laugh is poison.
His arm becomes of bronzing marble.

See him, my eye. There lies,
raised to life from Friedrich’s museum,
the resting Apollo.

4        The Land of Cockaigne

The July sun blazes on Kassel now. The grain
turns yellow, and gold climbs to Goshawk Wood.
A kiss comes to his lips, my hair falls
over him in waves. Like streams of dusky sand.

Far off a storm begins, or cannon of the
revolution. All at once, it seems a sign.
Abduct me, Fritz. Let me be your wild one.


5        Parade

Opal the navel of the park, frozen into
Marmorbad. Tritons and sirens turned to stone.
The baths of bluest summer air, the bathing party
panting breathless. Deathly pale tiles are surging.

The summer goes to sleep round Kassel. Quietly
the avenue observes the listless parade. The
foliage is black. The prince, yawning, falls
asleep. Le landgraf aime l’ordre.

Mutely the people cry and slowly die.
The landgrave builds his Löwenburg.
The marching feet, the drums’ loud beat.
The weapons flash with godlike gleam.

The cock cries red, unjustly, here.
Though on my retina is but the
ice-hue of his eye. The gaze dissolves.
My spirit, like the snow, unfurls.

And we are still apart
only as rain and sea.

6        The Kassel Apollo

We do not know his legendary head
in which the apples ripened. (His torso’s
marble, arched in white.) We no more see
the border passing through the eyes, where sun
merges into stars. Once, though, his silence
will arrive. Sleeping beauties then he’ll rouse
to pictures of sublimity.

Once he gains entrance in your eyes, his foot
will solemnly leave time. In you he mounts
into a sky, seeking yet higher (good old
montgolfière), voids that are boundless, far away.

Thin-cheeked athlete. Through him once more you now
to God, or maybe Iris, can ascribe the rainbow.
Walk round his mathematical physique.
He’s so far off. There is no spot
which you don’t see.

Your life must needs now change its course.

7        Melancholia

The gallery seems kindred in spirit,
yet strange as Greece. White glimmers, like some
mirror of the moon, with lime attracting
in the wall and skull-pale pillars. For each I sign
the museum book. An able visitor,
here acting as a guide.

Canvas upon canvas, one great roundelay.
Here whirls Marie, who holds the painter’s guild bewitched.
There shines Susette, with Titian-like teint.
And he, he waltzes past Rembrandt and
Rubens’ ebullience. Struck dumb, pausing long
at Claude Lorrain’s Moments d’une journée.

‘Look, how the colours almost move,
just as in Breughel, the whole year revolves
in circle-form, not knowing that we are.
And paint’s transparent all at once, Claude’s
morning clears up silvered above a sea
bottle-green, canting, blue that ever yields.

Look at this tree that flowers in death,
that makes its mark on being, says:
good thing that I exist.

One day the wheel will
come to unpick us all.’

(I feel so happy here.)

8        Cure for two

Atlantis of sheer modesty: so still and
sleepy Bad Driburg nestles in the wood.
The oak is red, the beech wood losing colour.
Pale lies the bathing season on wet ground.
The grave yawns black and wide.

The entrance is a picture, draped with red
and sadness. The light now dozing through each day
and on the Knochenberg grass dries the dew.
Sometimes of slate is all of August’s blue.

The phaeton abducts us ardently, smitten,
parading the attractions of Westphalia:
the spot where Hermann crushed the legion, the
glass factory so hot and tall. And on a hill,
near the ancient Iburgschloß, we stand and gaze down on
German Boeotia.

The water slakes with iron, nutrient salt.
The spring soothes headaches like no fizzy pill.
Leeches the doctor at the spa prescribes,
concluding: the soul of man is in the skull.
His voice sounds reasonable, almost.

9        Unconscious evening

The clapper speaks, the bell swings slow
in evening air. Here time’s no use for
anyone. Empty the room of dances,
day after day. The fire pales, dull the
illuminations. A sail, of dreams what’s more, has
covered up die Bühne.

So sits the wise old summer too, fatigued,
with bread and wine. The god lies snoring
in the grass, the youths likewise affected
also doze. Von Sierstorpff buckles
on his spurs, dons cape and boots.

Throughout a cloudburst tenderly the room
encloses us. No spa-guest knows her name,
our circle speaks no word. Round us the
wall glows poppy-red. Warmth still, though tinged
with the month of grape-picking.

And like a school-lad I am further
shown the ropes. Come, she whispers, come take
and eat -  assault my shining slender waist.
Take this chalice, Socrates, kneel down before
my monstrance.

The effort is behind me, gone, repaid.
Wine won’t grow in the open air -
craves oakwood hard and dark, a leaden night
and tears, much redder than of paint.

10        Breaking mirrors

September wind with the ideal degree of
coolness has arrived. Silent the summer now
in vineyard and ivy, pondering its
mortality. The time still glides
like driftwood on the Rhine.

Bad Driburg seemed a hazy cauldron. We
melted bronze from soul and body,
with water the land was mated and Eros’
lips kissed Thanatos’. High on the angel’s
snowland the fall slept. A silence
wafted in from childhood. There was
but Hill and Wood, the Baths and Us.

But round us now the Weser splashes, and a
white steam’s hovering. The horse’s hooves
scrape on the wood. The bank sinks, the land
dissolves in gold and mist. Once more our
unity is torn apart. Leave-taking the only law.

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