Wednesday 20 June 2012

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

FRANKFURT (September 1796 - September 1798)

1  The white hart
2  Bread and wine
3  Under Saturn
4  Tristitia post
5  Orpheus in Biedermeier costume
6  Schoolgirl’s report
7  Old story

(September 1796 - September 1798)

1        The white hart

Marking our return, a border post.
The coach slid through the mud, a knife.
The town remained a chessboard first,
but growing, breathlessly. Only the voice
gets stuck. An axle breaks in two.

Brown, high and silent, flutters down from giddy
tree-tops. The tree is wooden, and secretly
the roots, bark are digging deep into the soil.
Decay grows imperceptibly. A fairy ring
begins to form. The mistletoe hangs green,
scented with sanctity.

What was now falls apart. Cobus remains
in Nuremberg, the kingdom is ours alone
and time hunts through boudoir and garden bower.
Fear quivers in each kiss. A voice, outside
itself, speaks, insists: here’s the boundary,
where’s the unity, no one renounces you.
Existence requires a distinction.

2        Bread and wine

The city rests in rings, the light has lost
itself in Frankfurt’s streets. Motionless
the candle burns - listen: from distant gardens wafts
the sound of strings. High up the white circle stares,
eye in eye, into the garret. The
night appears exalted. Black wall hanging,
on a snow-white background.

‘How, friend, can I lay bare that obscurity?
Is she a poppy, freshly picked? Or more, perhaps,
a flash of lightning? A circle revolves
about her absence, a sphere the nickelled
madonna head. In this word, joy works itself
to death.

Acclaim becomes a stammer then, a
flight lifts my pen. Her game of sadness
weighs heavy. Her fire burns only
snow. Time rushes by. Hallowed
be her harlot’s flesh.’

Then I fall silent as the grave.
My silence will for her mean peace.

(The ink freezes to the pot. I’ll get a rasping
cough here. Rheumatics.)

3        Under Saturn

The drawer flows over. The floor bestrewn with flour
and puzzle pieces. A flywheel rotates
in my eye. A dome of glass then slips
between my hands, heavy and smooth.
Then splintering.

Never existing, perfect pillars of
the Parthenon, Greek, serrated and marbled.
A heap of rubble even so. The grape,
pressed to wine, soon tastes of decay.
The bells strikes in a peal: mildew.

I see the tree, dismiss it though.
The wall before me: seek then its meaning.
Look through the house: the ruin is apparent.

I think, but cannot find more deeds.
Night has descended now, and God is
absent from the world. I am a prince,
broken by tragedy. The courtier’s
on his way who runs me through.

And love burns up like straw. I think of Frankfurt
without her. What use am I
and where?

4        Tristitia post

In winter flowering only can oppress.
The clouds from time to time are edged with gold,
A chink reveals the sacred grave.
We snuggle up a little, holding hands.

Blue glass the morning, simply bliss.
Marie, our faithful watch-dog, guards our tryst.
A body’s scent intoxicates, my lips
whisper: dearest pinkest Fledermaus,
alabaster of an Ionic doll.
Her eyes are glittering. Rock-crystal.

But comes the afternoon, I’m just a spot
dissolved in lithograph. Susette appears,
talks polished French, smells of Chanel.
Is different, unknowable. It weighs me down,
this atmosphere - the pressure mounts now
almost daily.

The mirror sees me, writing there alone.
Writing invades me, wringing my mind.
Goethe, the German Pythia, once advised me:
the Kleingedicht’s for you. Think small, my son.
Be much less fanciful.

5        Orpheus in Biedermeier costume

        New Year’s Eve ’97, Frankfurt a.M.

The century dies out and, dear brother,
my thoughts are now of you, once more in Swabia.
Where are our friends now? Where does silk
brightly gleam in summer-edge - and butter yellow?

The jug, the basin, the French soap - obscured
by summer’s sweat? In birches and
in chestnuts illumination burns. The fruit
now fades and sets quite motionless.

I share the attic with the maid,
though leave my nails uncut and still
seek to maintain: status, illusions,
Gontard’s wine. (Cellars were always
my forte.) Meanwhile she dines
beneath me. And laughs so merrily that I
hear her.

Chew on an apple, wizened and quite cold.
Chat grimly with Marie.
Drink tepid tea.
The future seems well-grounded now.

After the past five years,
my eye’s no more as clear.
What I desire - money, Susette,
my own fireside.

6        Schoolgirl’s report

The teacher seems ideal to me.
Hein talks like Robespierre, almost.
Marie gasps: oui encore, Monsieur.
Your servant girl learns more and more.

Snow describes circles in the rose of
‘O’. Lips that now have perished round a circle.
My cherry-mouth I give him moist.
Give of your sweets the usufrucht.

Was signed,

        Your truffle,


7        Old story

The ceiling-mop displays the attic
quite like lightning. The child sits dribbling
on her arm. Their body slips
across my mind. The staircase has
never been so short.

Palely he makes great eyes, pointing
at ink and scissors. Claiming I
read a verse for her. But secretly
he still breathes her breath. His hand
lies blood-red on her thigh.

Then a merchant’s as a king. Money
resides in banks. I countersign - maybe.
And guilders make subjects. I’m procuring
for him - as apples, wine, saffron.

How? My wares stand poppy-like before
me, generously sprinkling Marx’s discourses
and direct hits. Fear steals away Susette’s
voice, talks rough. She snuffs his senses out once
and for all. The floor sways under him.
His neck turns round and round.

A squall then hits Susette full on.
She’s fever-struck then, one whole week.

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