Thursday, 8 November 2018

Part 3 of Klaus Høeck's 'Metamorphoses' (1983)


Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell:
     No god, no demon of severe response,
Deigns to reply from heaven or from hell.
     Then to my human heart I turn at once –
Heart! thou and I are here sad and alone;
     Say, wherefore did I laugh? O mortal pain!
O darkness! darkness! ever must I moan,
     To question heaven and hell and heart in vain!
Why did I laugh? I know this being’s lease –
     My fancy to its utmost blisses spreads:
Yet could I on this very midnight cease,
     And the world’s gaudy ensigns see in shreds.
Verse, fame, and beauty are intense indeed,
But death intenser-death is life’s high meed.


I recognise Rome immediately:
     from its colour of old bismuth nitrate
     that runs down all its walls of brick and stone.
And a distant bell begins to ring in
Side me as a reminder that I have lost
     everything. For that which you love the most
     you are bound to lose. For that reason I
Have come here in order to celebrate
Death and love, which are so inextrica
     bly intertwined as are body and soul.
That is why I have come to celebrate
     John Keats and the butterflies’ great reflect
Ed fiery glow over the city when
     it perishes against the light’s drum-rolls.


Already on my first evening here I
     visit the ivory of the room where
     he died, which is still surrounded by ge
Raniums: it is perverse: plaster masks,
Farewell letters and a lock of his hair
     which must probably be called cendré. Here
     is only the usual, and although the
Fountain has reflected his face, there is
Nothing at all left now except for the
     sunken shipwreck of the fountain at the
Foot of The Spanish Staircase and the e
     normous scarlet velvet curtains that are
Being pulled back from the sky in order
     to reveal once more the Roman sunset.


Even in my dreams I can hear the swal
     lows. My magnificent favourite birds
     that glitter like violet quartz against
The sun, or like whirling razor blades up a
Bove the Via Degli Scipioni.
     They cross my secret ex libris on their
     way towards the Tiber river, where the
Mosquito swarms of evil now gather.
I have now reached the point in my life where
     things are beginning to fall back, or more
Correctly they are being called back to
     their origins. That is why I’m sitting
Almost completely naked between Ho
     tel Gerber’s mirrors and pink wallpapers.


That is how I am also slowly be
     ing emptied of morals, shadow and
     poetry from the inside, while the Rom
An dawn is consumed by its own gilding.
But it is perhaps simply a prepar
     ation for the final, great biblical
     Flood that I have always wanted. Oh, all
These columns, all this marble – it starts to
Get on my nerves, all this old age that is
     starting to approach me at such great ve
Locity. When will humanity raise
     a larger monument than the one for
Victor Emanuel, whose rearing hor
     ses only pay tribute to matter?


Of course St. Peter’s Square is lovely. A
     vast syndrome of beauty, a host that col
     lects all the clarity of the sky in
One point. Yet despite all this I prefer
A different form of beauty that is
     closer to life. Despite all this I pre
     fer a clarity which death has not pro
Vided with the signet seal of God.
Thus for example this beauty is un
     able to explain away every sing
Le act of treachery on which it builds.
     And this clarity is unable to
Eclipse Keats’ sonnets which are radiant
     with laudanum and with deep-felt grief.


Who has said that the moon was only to
     shine out here at Ponte Margherita
     through the branches of the acacias?
Now it is gleaming out through your own eyes
Even purer than ever before, like
     the visions that intermingle with the
     coal-smoke of reality. And who
Would ever have believed that the evening
Would come to intermingle with my own
     desperation, my fruitful desper
Ation, Yes, who would ever have believed
     that the first large drops of the falling
Rain would leave such fresh and green traces
     down through the regions of my heart?


I turn off down the Via dei Gracchi
     that is blue beneath the plane trees. Here a
     hairdresser lifts his scissors as a form
Of blessing. Here the sun drops down its pro
Jection of shadow. I myself lower
     my gaze. ‘Morte al fascio’ – is what stands
     written on the walls in red spray paint.
The wealthy and the prosperous live here
Like a protection against the people
     round the amethyst of the Vatican.
I return home and read the beginning
     of Endymion – not out of a feel
Ing of revenge or of rage but because
     it heals the heart with periwinkle.


I sit for two and a half hours in the
     sunlight on the Risorgimento square.
     Acacias and sapphires! – But in
Spiration refuses to manifest it
Self with its elevated suffering.
     A nun hovers like a transfigur
     ation of white glass above the trees.
Apart from that the Carabinieri
And the gendarmes command most attent
     ion. ‘La repressione non ferma
La Rivoluzione!’ I recoll
     ect this sentence from the plastered walls
In practically every single street.
     I also wrote this when I got back home.


On the Via Flamina the number
     one bus route takes you between car painting
     workshops and baker’s shops. Every morning
A black angel makes its appearance to
Remind everyone of the traffic deaths.
     I also leap for dear life trying to find
     a path between Fiats and Lancias. And
The Pope and the Vatican own more than
Half of all the Alfa Romeo fac
     tories apart from the estate agent
Companies and the Banco di
     Sancto Spirito. I close my eyes
And dare to make this assertion: re
     ligion has nothing to do with God.


On the Via Paolo Emilio you
     can buy a bottle of white wine for
     seven thousand lire. And the shop
Assistant crosses herself at such a
Miracle. Outside the shop there is
     a sign with ‘Stella Rossa’ with black
     and red letters in what is almost a
Cicerone script. Keats would drink claret
In the evening, when he was happy at
     a successful sonnet. I recollect
This while I myself wander over
     the fleeting continents that the
Clouds are drawing on this stone-hard
     asphalt, clouds with golden edges.


I now reach the Via Pompeo Mag
     no close to the Tiber. There a drogher
     ia stands out nicely among the
Other shops. It is full of blue bottles
And loaves of bread which float over the
     counter like zeppelins midst all the
     olive oil and tarragon. And the cus
Tomers resemble stigmatised nuns
And are prepared to sell themselves to the
     Devil. (Oh these visions that now e
Rupt once again despite all will-power
     (if only they were naked)). From this
Street only a few steps separate me from
     the consecrated ones’ delirium.


The sun is mine. The sun is mine today
     above the blue fountains of the Villa
     d’Este. Above the rich men’s monument:
This effervescent pure champagne from
The people who themselves have produced
     it. The falsification has com
     pleted this theft. Isn’t it a strange thing
That the Brigades are taking the law
Into their own hands after centuries
     of oppression and humiliation?
The sun and the light appear to me to be
     more baroque than the laid-out gardens
And the villa. The air and water seem
     more classical to me than the statues.


In the Villa Borghese’s yellow pal
     ace among the marble statues: this
     gleaming Pompeii-red bust of a
Senator staring out with empty eyes.
And the angels rise up towards the sky
     in the fresco ceilings as if they wanted
     to flee from all the boredom that reigns
In the halls of the Renaissance and the
Baroque. I myself, tired and exhausted,
     go out to the poppies, which have taken
Over supreme authority out here.
     The Brigades are victorious! – This mess
Age has even reached the foundations of
     the medieval houses as graffiti.


At the grey pyramid stone and shadow
     of Caius Caestius I realised
     the loss. Is it over? – the answer and
Dusk sink over the light of the ceme
Tery. He too lost his beloved.
     Lost his in the meantime among
     the stones. Keats’ grim death opposite
Fanny Brawne. Blue electricity
Above the crosses’ twilight. And the
     opposition of Uranus, gleaming
From the pyramid’s tip. I now lose my
     body, lose my soul, if I lose the one
Half, I gain my spirit. Is that a
     good exchange between a loving couple?


The crenelated crown of Engelsborg.
     And the Madonna’s head. Or harlot’s
     diadem. I am really standing here
Among full-length angels. Therefore I
Must be in Heaven in a certain
     sense. Among archangels and cherubs
     I even believe. White and full of
Authority among the metaphys
Ical clouds and azure. Beggars and
     street-vendors proffer me holy
Relics. Here all of us are congre
     gated in the name of God, but not
In the Spirit. God & Son Ltd. This
     glittering, white, mercantile syndicate.

Rome: gleamingly full of cinnabar.
     Red graffiti. And history. But
     do not absolve Rome. Not the columns of
Innocence. Not its. Guilelessness is
Over and done. Not pure marble. Not here.
     Painted foundations with red and
     black insignias. The Brigate
Rosse. Stella Rossa. Trajan’s column’s
Stupidities. The strong were to defend
     the weak against exploitation. Against
Suppression. Slavery. Ah, Gajus
     Gracchus. Only your. The name. That dissem
Inates its dandelion seeds through the mil
     lennia. It. It. Promises justice.


Life’s five-pointed star above the Forum
     Romanum. Splintered. Chases through me.
     Transfixes me to the present. To.
N.A.P. will win. La Libertà. This. Five. The
Five-pointed star in its circle. Stella
     Rossa. Libertà per camerata.
     Is justice possible without wea
Pons. And revolution possible
Without rebellion. Armed rebellion?
     Can power hand over power without vio
Lence. Pantero libero. Between. Their.
     Death to fascism. Morte al fas
cio. Wants the privileges. From. Private
     ownership: robbery on robbery.


La merda è marrone. È mar
     rone. La merda. Marrone. E.
     N.A.P. prati. Io. Per. Boia. Libertà
Per camerata paccari. Morte
Al manifesto. Stella Rossa.
     E. Io. Rosso. Io. Per per.
     Brigate Rosse. Io. Rosse. Li
Bertà per camerata paccari.
E. La Libertà. Camerati in
     Libertà. In. In. Io. In. In.
La Repressione non ferma
     la Rivoluzione. No al fas
cismo. Marrone. Marrone. E.
     Io. Brigate Rosse. Stella Rossa.


And the skies open searingly pure.
      a luciferian mirror for reason
     which I will break through with a jet plane
On my way to Rome, the eternal city.
For the one who lets down his beloved
     hands her over to the demons.
     Therefore I am looking for the final
Key to the sunrises that gleam pink
And golden in the frescoes
     in the Sixtine Chapel. Therefore I
Find myself now as a matter of course
     at a height of about a thousand metres
Among castles in the air and sky palaces
     on the Second Sunday after Trinity.


Libertà per camerati arres
     tati. N.A.P. vince. Vince. E. Io.
     Per. Rivoluzione fino alla
Vittoria. E. Prati. Rosso.
Morte as fascio e at tutti
     padroni. Padroni tutti. Uno.
     Tutti. Vota al commune. N.A.P. 68.
Operai. Studenti. Soldati.
Uniti nella lotta. E. Uniti.
     Tutti. Operai. Nelle lotta.
Tutti. Lotta. Nel. Brigate Rosse.
     Camerati in Libertà. In Li
Bertà. E. La merda er marrone.
     E. In. In. Libertà. Tutti. E. Rosso.


Colosseum. Cola-coloured shad
     ows. And my shadow. Which don’t. But
     not due to the sun. My own
Dazzling darkness. And poppies
Of light over my forehead. This rich
     ness. Enough. This. And butterfly’s make-up.
     Stella Rossa. Red star. On the
Walls. And writing. And. Written this:
L’amore è anche spirituale.
     With. Its. Red. Red. And. Written. But.
Here. It. Revolution of the blood. There
     from sand. But call out. Through this sand.
And. But. Libertà per camerata.
     Five. Write this in this. Also It.


Rome. A bowl with sodium and water.
     In the evening hours. Seething. Fit
     tings of stars. Neon. Go towards.
I walk on seething streets. Of
Neon. Away from history. This.
     I. Antiquity. This. I. Gone. The
     story of the rich full of columns and
Fountains. Their gleaming mansions.
The blood. The pain. The cruelty.
     Nothing is heard of this. Facts are
Falsified for beauty. Also that.
     Tiberius Gracchus murdered. His
Eyes are history. It. He.
     Gone. Roman baths and triumphant arches.


Villa Medici, pure mirroring of
     the world of ideas. Forty busts
     in a frightful round-dance around
The fountain of the spirit. Forty princes in an
Occult rondeau around the centre of
     power and tyranny. I place
     a small red star of enamel
That I have on my shirt on the grass in
Honour of The Red Brigades. And the
     sunset gives off its green glint
As salt does, when thrown onto the fire.
     I sit down in the evening coolness’s
Vapours of carbon tetrachloride in the middle
     of Rome’s doomed civilisation.


St Peter’s Church’s grey cranium against
     the clouds which light up the sky
     like smoke rising. This. At a papal
Election from The Sixtine Chapel.
White smoke against the sky. That’s that, I
     say on the Square of Sacrilege, where
     blasphemy burns its magnificent
Azur and gilt. Is what one fears really
     deep down taking place towards
     the conclusion, because one. This. Thereby
Actually and over. Border or trans
     gresses its borders? – Is our fear
And anxiety the smoke in the sky which
     indicates our deeper fire?


Mausoleum of Hadrian, grey stump of bone or
     the funeral drum droning out its
     beats. Droning its throughout day and night
And the human heart in the Cath
     olic empire, where God is
     his own prisoner in Castel Sant’
Angelo’s white chambers of flame.
I lower my gaze behind the charred
eyelashes’, these. A hori
     zon has burnt down. I can find no
Kingdom of Heaven turning blue. No one
     among the columns and corruption
Of the ruins. Among among. Jesus’ white
     figure and face have left this city.


Hailel’s violet jewels and precious
     stones command admiration among
     the Vatican’s rich treasures. Here they
Gleam from the showcases of beauty
Like burning-glass in the light of the heavens.
     Twelve stones in the Pope’s tiara and
     mitre’s gold. Twelve stones of
Frigidity and infamy.
The worship of false idols and blasphemous mockery
     govern this state. Mockery of the people.
     Mockery of women. Mockery of
Poverty. Blasphemous mockery of
     Jesus’ crown of thorns.


The thunder blesses the Madonna on
     Via Cola di Rienzo. This street gleams
     almost completely green with
Moisture and mother-of-pearl. Despite this
Bribery raises its statues into the
     sky and corruption hangs down from
     the balconies and from the stucco of the
Window sills. For it runs parallel
With the sloping foundations of the Palace of
     Justice. It borders on the legal system’s
Underground of dried-up ochre.
     ‘Hospedale del Popolo’ is says on the
Fencing and on the scaffolding
     for the repairing of the splendid structure.


At Lungotevere Michelangelo
     the bats trace their blood trails
     across the orange-yellow fresco
Of the evening. Oh, these small fortune-
Hunters, they are unconcerned
     about the suicide of the morrow
     or the revelations that are going to
Take place in the St Paolo
Basilica in Thursday’s shadows.
     For it is the task of the poet to
Separate evil from good, and the beauti
     ful from the ugly in his crazed
Visions. Thereby he brings out the
     real from irreality.


The offices of the Motor Organisation
     lie on Via Tacito in a corner
     property that has strange
canopies and vine leaves of plaster.
Here you can receive extreme unction
     from the mechanic before he
     ascends into the sky in a cloud of
Carbon monoxide and pink roses.
Slowly I fly after this saint
     of a so-called proletarian
On the angel-wings of fantasy (the
     entire scene reminds one more of a
Painting by Chagall). And there Rome then lies
     beneath me like a vast blueprint.


What high mass is not celebrated
     in this eatery on the
     Piazza Cavour. The waiter is dressed
In a snow-white chasuble with black
Seams, and he brings with him both the
     bread and the wine. I have admittedly
     been granted absolution by the Pope at twelve
’O clock on St Peter’s Square. But I do
Not regard that as anything compared
     to this tabernacle. The holy
Salt cellar, the candelabrum and the writing
     that is written out there on the wall
In blood: Operai studenti soldati
     uniti nella lotta CMCM.


If you go down the Via del Corso in
     rush hour you will see a saint on
     a column of neon. The priests will dart
Around your legs like frightened chickens
And the large glass facades
     will emit electric discharges
     of numinous volts. You then descend
Along a side street with claire obscure.
And there the house of dreams will rise up
     in the classical sunshine. For poets
Do not dream themselves away from real
     ity, on the contrary, they create
It out of a dream. Here one such perished
     whose name and poetry have lived ever since.


Is it the goddesses of vengeance that send
     these tall agaves up towards the sky
     in the small atrium garden behind the
Hotel, or is it only my imagina
Tion that is stunting the roses along
     the atropine-coloured wall? – I wanted
     to write about Keats, who struck
My heart with his lark-like wings in my
Own youth, and despite this the poems
     have more to do with myself and
The never-ending labyrinths
     in the anatomy of melancholy. I there
Fore make once more for the inns of the
     Spanish Square, which smell of iodine.


It is not possible for me to explain
     why I suddenly felt nauseous
     in Santa Maria Maggiore
Church this morning. For there is
No particular rage that is
     rising up in my brain like green foam
     or any well-defined anxiety.
I just have to get outside to speak to
The chauffeur, whose name is Gabriel. We
     drink a cup of cappuccino, while
I absent-mindedly consider the day
     moon. There it sits like a water
Mark that is impregnated on the sky.
     I will never enter a church again.


If you measure a poppy at a certain
     distance with your nail, it is just
     as big as the library that lies
At Hadrian’s Villa. The deception is
Easy enough to explain, although it
     surprises you just as much each time
     as with placebo pills or the
Müller-Lyer vases. Oh, what a shame
It is not to be living with this
     knowledge of treachery, the false
Hood of women, the entire marble floor’s
     optical illusion of circles that intersect
Each other. From now on I put my trust
     in the thunder and the black olive fruits.


It ends as it begins with daisies, which
     are flowering everywhere around
     the grave. I have come all this way
In order to pay a debt to the poet of
My youth, who now is reading the green
     pages of death. I leave my poetic
     will behind here, full of arum
Lilies and dark dreams that will
Unite with the shadow from the
     Caius Caestius pyramid every
Night in the moonlight. I also leave
     my grieving lyre behind, where time
Has come to a standstill. The rest must be
     played on other, lighter strings.


This is how May ends in Italy: like
     an olive lamp that is slowly
     being screwed down behind the horizon.
And the birds know that spring is
Over. They are now illuminated from below
     when they cross the vault of heaven like
     flaming satellites. I myself become
Aware of it when the rainbow of petrol
     assumes a deeper ultraviolet
     hue over the Tiber. I must therefore
Also return home to my own
     summer, which will be more bitter
Than overheated magnesium, more
     acrid than the taste of the plane-tree seed.


I heard a bell that has never rung.
     I read a poem that has never been
     written. But of all that existed
I saw either only the beginning or the
End. And that which I loved
     went inexorably to rack and ruin
     among the ice-spinning of the stars
That paint the sky as in Michel
Angelo’s Day of Judgment fresco. I there
     fore conceal my love for better
Times, the breakers of which I await.
     For the one who has been in both
Heaven and Hell, has nothing else
     remaining except the Earth.

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