…[Charles Baudelaire, supreme poet]

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Aug 192011
 

Without the incantation of a formula, there is no science. Lacking science, how can one have a poetry of mists and amulets, razors and daisies? If a heart should miss a beat, but then return to its effortful circulation, the circumlocution of its everyday existence, that petty farce and sham, we are brought to a new knowing of the heart, an awareness that it exists. To stop hearts, that is my experiment. If they start back up again…. Well, I tried. My own one day will forget itself.

How to see reality but through enchantment? How to create a vision that enchants yourself? This is the only difficulty: to be made to believe by words alone, so that reality may be completely blotted out, as in an opium stupor, or lonely Poe upon his lover’s tomb chanting verities, and then to dismiss the fiction that has dismissed the world. Ah! That must be what it is like to be alive for a moment. An ocean of feeling–eviscerated!

Is this sanity? Yes, if properly punctuated.

Attend to life, and then depart it. This is how one cultivates the ‘voice from beyond the tomb.’ Velvet weltanschauung!

“Nerval, how shall we blend all effects, all expressions?”

“I forget.”

“Do you really? As a child, I was too new to forget anything; everything was too close, too sudden to forget. I had yet to be touched by that magic wand, Nostalgia. One needs a death.”

“Now I remember.”

“That must be a poem!”

Flash Forward …[Bonadventure, at home, before his garden bonfire]

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Aug 192011
 

Ah! Young Franscois has put away the plates at last; the burnt bits of bacon, always too crisp or too flaccid, fried eggs solid as Gibraltar, cream cheese, mushroom caps, soup thin as a saint’s blood, a wicked spray of asparagus that mocked my inoperant manhood–yes I have advanced to that grim age, Marlene, and even my animal interest has waned along with my wang–some gruyere and jam. A delight, really. And for the topper, a dollop of Nougatine and a sallow slice of dry cake. Hmm.

And now I have returned to my garden, taken up like the taming of Africa by my wife and old Jacques (old even to us!). A new trainline encroaches on our simplicity in the dead distance, sighing to a halt at that satanic gingerbread house concoction of a stop, which I can only think of as the fiendish application of a little girl’s nightmarish dreams of a house brought stunningly and wrenchingly to powdered life. Ech! Jacque’s one concession to barbarity out here in the garden is due to me–a bonfire pit where I roast my bones in some old man’s prelude of Hell, and which I enjoy inordinately even in the swelter of August. I collapse on my old rattan chair, once so new I thought it would never be of service, like the rigid blankness of babies; you never imagine that they could grow into something as useful as a prostitute or an amanuensis. Yet, I have seen both emerge from their swaddling clothes in my passage on earth, and that is another delightful meal for me–of my memory.

Let me see–yes, in this ratty stack of manuscripts, here is all the soiled heart of that genius and compatriot of ours, Baudelaire. Before the bonfire, which is gratefully releasing my knees from the purgatory to which they have been condemned daylong, is the right place to read one last time, such words of fire:

“‘Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.’ Too true, too often! Our eyes are clotted with cancerous growths, we plunge into the abyss not knowing one thing from the next. Thinking to do good, we execute the innocent; harping on virtue, we innoculate the guttersnipe against reforms; blessed by a bounty of spirit or nature, we waste both and grumble at our spendthrift style! It seems to me that the only sure delight can come, must come, through the certainty of sacrilege; to know the good and to knowingly disobey. To have the mind of Jesus and the perversity of the Devil. For, by doing so, we at least know what we are doing, and are not just rockets let loose in the mist. In this way, all of our morality has the utilitarian angle of an angel’s mirror: we see ourselves, not as we would be (as occurs in the instructive mirror of church) but as we are, by our willful deformity from the indestructible elegance set before us.

“Woman–take the savage in her natural state: her lyricism is that of the bestial mass, the ‘beast with two backs.’ There is no exaltation of the essential self in such an act, there is only a total and self-degrading abasement before another, an acknowledgement of need, an exchange of uses, as at an agricultural fair. It is the sick bargain between the abject gambler and the croupier–one agrees to give up all he has; the other, equally debased, agrees to accept the debt. A disgusting exchange! Nothing is given, all is hard trading and walleyed vision. Despicable!

“We sex where we excrete. God has jammed our noses in the foul joke; the moaning misnomer named ‘love.’

“George Sand is one of these women, crying like a mounted hen about her glorious degradation. ‘I have humiliated the men by taking my pleasure with them! haha!’ That they have turned her pages, or cut into her supple fonts does not appear to have crossed that great empty gap she calls her ‘mind, invincible and indivisible.’ The artist never tears himself into needs, petty dramas or lazy lapses of the integral vision; his abysses are interior only! He never comes out to play. He remains maestro and intimate only with himself. The stage of life is a sham which never attains anything of interest; copulation is the entry under another’s proscenium–the artist never leaves the green room of himself.

“All love is prostitution of the purer impulse. The more a man sates his sex on the arts, the less randily he hankers after the mottled artifact (of the woman, the man, or the child). If one is to choose degradation as a sensation, an artistic experience and type or route of salvation from dim ennui, only the ideal of degradation will serve the turn. Congress with Satan, fly the church perch of the limited self in the direction of homely Hades; invoke the delights of the damned, and tell yourself that you are going down, down, down–all the way. To seek God carries the insecurity of a lust for promotion in another’s incomprehensible eyes; patience, humility, and a divine sign are all required passwords for this tourney of the soul. Uncertainty of the limitless light! I renounce the doubtful path–although it rise to Heaven itself!

“Every kind word is a kiss in the mist, uncertain of where its finally planted; every curse condemns with surety.”

I put my old feet closer to the flaring conflagration, causing the glittery cinders to crack and grind.

“To lose one’s way in the sewers of the flesh; all the annals of love throughout time are but the jottings of sanitation superintendents.

“Strip down to your virginity, then lave it with gravesores. This is the only likely turnpike.”

The paper browns at its edges and sashays in the updraft before turning a double somersault and crumpling to its utter destruction. It is so beautiful to watch the light take away the inky weight of the words, their dirty intrusion onto the page. Now another page flies, fumbles, and folds. It seems that, as an artist, I have turned to burning. The beautiful soul-croaks of my friend–chasing oblivion once again (and, I pray, finally) in the flames.

Here in this garden bonfire, I reverse the heroism of embattled Byron. Instead of pulling the boiling organ from the conflagration, I here consign to fire the scattered pages that Charles had described to me one day in his last illness as My Heart Laid Bare.

…[Bonadventure, at Jeanne’s unveiling]

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Aug 192011
 

His apartment on the Rue de Salleon was like himself and called forth feelings and memories by their departure. A sort of permanent state of premature nostalgia. To actually be there, in the room, was a deliquescent form of absence….

An infinity of absence was the only decor, a plaster and candelabra evocation of staring at the sea–that intense feeling of nothingness such immensity commands. He stood, a dandified shard of driftwood, in soft shadows where the uncertainties of the candleabra’s candles overlapped. In the center of the room, surrounded by six thigh-high red votive candles, stood a dusky dame stripped to her waist. She had been a secret obsession of Baudelaire’s for some time, and one his whim was determined to comprehend completely.

He addressed Remarque, a ‘poet of debauch,’ as he styled himself in those days:

“Remarque, do you not find Jeanne attractive, the whore?”

Remarque turned to Baudelaire, affecting indifference, and answered:

“She’ll do.”

“I find in her the cruel rumor of a lion’s beauty. Her neck alone is a downspout of godly bloods, always as hot as a slap below the arched frontiers of her nostrils…. Notice how the curve of darkness lingers into a comma, the invitation to experience for yourself, again perhaps, the very essence of all scents… and where would that lead? Oh, she is dangerous! Such a city of desires is impossible to fix on any map, and must be continually re-explored in the blindness of the bed.”

Remarque was becoming sensibly aroused by this description.

“Well, it is as you say…. She….”

Baudelaire abruptly turned his stare across the room and said, in the most agreeable tones:

“What do you think, Jeanne? Do you like your portrait? It is fleshed out in Remarque’s heavy stare. Do you like him? What do you think of him? An intense young man by all accounts.”

Jeanne, undisturbed, drew deeply on her opium cigarette. The rolling paper and the herb combined to make the simple room smell of orange blossoms.

“Oh, I cannot stand this,” cursed Remarque, and in a single swift motion stood before us, disrobed. He strode toward Jeanne, who exhaled with an unimpeded ease, and looked… I could not tell where her eyes were directed, they were too heavily lidded. Either to myself or Baudelaire. Was there an appeal in her glance? To this day I am uncertain. But Remarque shifted her petticoats–always of the lightest available material for such garments with Jeanne–and mounted her from the rear.

“Nudity is, of course, such a perfectly pitched expression,” said Baudelaire, turning to catch my attention as I was bolted to the sofa at the sight of the extraordinary coupling going on, “of boredom.”

…[Jeanne, in her old age]

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Aug 192011
 

Sixteen, ultrathin, and wickedly alert, Charles loitered at my oily sandalwood doorway. Under his breath he was humming his alma mater; “for the first and last time,” he informed me. That day was the day of his baccalaureate examinations, and he had creeped by on the strength of his graceful Greek.

“Do not give me a name, even in your own imagination,” I warned him when he asked. “I’ve seen too many young someones evaporate in the cipher of myself.” He said nothing, but lit a little cigarette very elegantly, tossing one for me when I licked my lips. That’s when I showed him into the recesses of the house and motioned him through the great red door, the equator of so many young men’s sexual explorations.

…[Baudelaire, jottings from his Intimate Journal]

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Aug 192011
 

In my dreams, my heart opens up to me like an egg filled with tar-colored snakes. Last night, consumed and tormented by the acrid stink of my own existence, I lay shelled in my stale linens for several hours, listening to the hiss of the gas jets in the streets, the occasional off-clop of a slow horse bringing his drunken master home for a sleep in the stable. Finally, my ears began to hear that null sound that accompanies coming unconsciousness. In a moment, I had opened my inner eyes on a pander of my acquaintance, wearing quite as bright a yellow vest as Huysmans sports, and posing affably before an impossibly ornately carved set of doors done in a darkly-stained heartwood. I felt the dread of familiar welcome in his smile.

“Monsieur, for ash Wednesday we have something special.” I passed in, avoiding contact with his sallow extended hand, and coughed at the heavy incense that laced the parlour in a cheap attempt to disguise the heavy opium use among the prostitutes. Fine ladies, each and every one–I will swear by my champing blood–of inestimable value if, to unbearable boors, of questionable virtue.

In my hand, rank with unchaste sweat, I bore a goldleaf and cerulean tome of my own postulant blooms, my Flowers of Evil, which I have just had back from my grandly deliquescing publisher. My heart was once again my own, in my own hands, whole and en-tomed, even if still largely confused.

Around me on the walls were colored placards of the dead: erotic paintings decorating this hydra’s lair of inconsequential desire; mocking rhymes of lush lust mated in couplets beneath depictions of cool couplings in exotic circumstances. A Raja and his elephant quickly consummating in Piccadilly, a lily-stockinged schoolgirl engaged in a minuet of dry kisses with her brother’s red toy soldier while an erstwhile papa beams approval as warmly as a bribed mayor in the country. These things, dusty talismans of bygone urges, along with their antique tongue-twister limericks, gave me the impression that I was the last living man standing among the maudlin mementos of a morgue.

I turned my attention from the walls. Before me, grand as an odalisque, sat the mistress of the establishment, or Madame. A slab of rich Italian marble laid between us, set with fine ball olives, licorice-stick cocks, vaginal aspics, and lead goblets brimmed with difficultly procured blood-wines. I looked directly into her eyes, which had a vanished aspect I could not quite understand. Then I addressed her, and there was vermillion in my tone.

“Mother….?”

“Son,” she commanded. “The book.”

Her hand, stiff as pinewood, shot out from her spider’s body of gathered-and-stitched pitch velvets, demanding the release of what, after all, contained all of my self and manhood. The depth and fatigue of my hesitation had all the qualities of a surgeon running his thumb meditatively over the scar he inflicts.

My mother smiled. It was the second smile I had been given that evening.

“Jeanne…” I asked, hesitating even more, “is she?” My question was almost an admission.

“Jeanne is not… otherwise engaged. No, not at all.”

At this, the living vision of a waterfall appeared in the doorway behind and beyond my mother; this waterfall, this downfall, I could only call Jeanne. Mother now, as I looked away, reached out to touch the delicate binding of my skyey book.

“Charles….” Jeanne began.

Her vision mined my eyes for a response. In myself I felt the unleashing and echoing register of an intimate calamity, as if I were about to betray a family murder to the gendarmes. The load of my book dropped (or was it lightly tugged?) into my mother’s under-girding hands. I glanced rapidly from face to face: Mother to Jeanne and then back again, imposing my own desperate pleas upon their soft and approving countenances that now alternated with the speed of a shutter flickering.

Yes, perhaps here, in the final graveyard of desire, where cash and sex intersect and power and love are plain upon every face in dim confinement, I had found a momentary harbor for the exploded rubbish of my soul.

Here was both the taste for death and the distaste for love, balanced for a single second on the soft cone of my inoperative desire. For you see, I could not… not with Jeanne… in Jeanne.

…[Jeanne, in her ladies’ lair]

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Aug 192011
 

“Yes, yes, yes, you little wretch, I must have a fresh bidet twice daily; the water in this one’s thick as the skin of curdled cream! I am accustomed only to roses and cloves–and coolness in August! The water should not feel as if it had just drooled out of a giant’s ear; it must be sweet, and cool, and nice. Right, Juliette? Do you have it? Good. Now, run! or Jeanne will whack you like the dirty boys like to do, you little harlot. What will the Madame say if you forever disappoint even us poor prostitutes? Run! “

“Yes, Jeanne. Cool water in August; it will be as you say. But, but….”

“Out, you scullery whore. You disturb an artiste!

“Yes, Jeanne. But… I think there is a note pinned to your door. A gentleman left it at the front desk earlier today.”

“A gentleman? And a note? Stop where you are; do not run away from your mistress. This… gentleman… did he ask for me? Particularly for me?”

“No; he just wanted to leave the note. That’s what Marie told me.”

“He wanted to leave a note, and not come up to my rooms? That’s a touch strange. He did say the note was for me particularly and not for one of the other ladies?”

“Oh yes, Jeanne. I can read, and it has your name on it.”

“Hmm… imagine you being able to read. How you managed it, I am sure I will never know. Did you recognize the man? Did you see him?”

“I saw him when he was leaving. I forget his name, but he was the one with the ‘evil eye.'”

“Julliette! Forget your gypsy ways, you are a French girl now. You don’t want to go back to the orphanage, do you?”

“Oh no, no, no, Jeanne! Do not let them drag me away! Not there! Not again! I couldn’t bear it!”

“Well, Madame won’t care how pretty you are if your keep up with those witchy superstitions. Men in Paris will shrink from your caresses, no matter how sultry. And that will not be good for business.”

“Yes. I know you are right. I shall not mention the ‘evil eye’ again, Jeanne.” She paused. “Thank you, Jeanne.”

“Yes, well, enough of that, what else can you tell me about this gentleman?”

“Oh, he was handsome, but pale, very pale, like a corpse laid out; the corpse of a prince or something. And very correct in his way of talking. Just like a real gentleman. But… but….”

“But what?”

“But, he had the saddest smile I ever saw, as if everything he loved, well, like he could see it, but it was all on the other side of a terribly big piece of glass. Like sometimes the way the really beautiful tropical fish look out at you in the new aquarium on the Place de la Glancee. Like they could see the wild ocean, but knew all the lands of the world lay between them and home.”

“Charlie,” Jeanne said to herself. “It must be Charlie.”

…[Jeanne, pacing alone in her rooms]

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Aug 192011
 

His noble head resembled a soft-boiled egg. Already, at twenty-six, I could see that he would bare his soul and go bald, as all men with virile brains must do. My Baldy-laire. So ridiculous, so childlike, mewling between my legs. How I laugh to remember his aesthete’s ways! Wickedness for him was all a mental sin. I never shamed him with tales of my naughty doings, unless to give him a rise while we entwined. He worshipped my muscularity, the mayhem of my haunch. Still, he blushed at the barbaric blood that coursed through me–his ‘dark, deadly Jeanne.’

His apartments were well-appointed. Although he pinched his pennies, for his mother and myself he spared no expense. And his compliments were always excessive and extravagant. But, to keep myself in lobster and champagne, I kept my other clients, some of them real men who would paw and conquer me. Baldy did know things a normal man would not; how to argue like a woman, for instance, infesting the memory with indelible barbs. He had an insight into the pleasures and punishments of my life a man would not ordinarily possess; he was like a sister, but with a prick. Days and nights of endless diatribe, morose reconsiderations of our relationship. Why kiss at all, since it so demeaned our beings to even need each other? That naked-headed man would put his vile mirror in your mind until the only escape was to capitulate to his perversities. His tongue inflicted paper cuts, and his restless mind encircled one’s molten throat like piano wire.

But why was he late for our appointment this night? I will not admit to worrying about him. It’s not as if I exactly enjoyed our battle of wills, but when one is used to pushing against Gibraltar, and instead finds the canvas wall of a circus tent…. Well, something is simply missing.

Now, mostly, when he was in one of his too-cruel moods, I would go toe-to-toe with him until my own desire began to rise. If I could not trick and twist him into the lagoon of our sunken sheets, I would hit the pavement, prowling for some nubile youth to degrade, or some perverse payee who would stoop to me and keep his yap shut, letting me close my eyes and allow me to thus be with my verbal warlock in silence.

We are all actors in our time; and, as a harlot, I have worn many masks in my nakedness. Our flesh gives us all we need for persuasive pretense. Every human maneuver is at our fingertips; every face floats before our own skull.

…[Note horse-nailed to Jeanne’s door]

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Aug 192011
 
I can't for my Mistress be an illustrious Lion;

The soul of my Soul has bruised off all its luster.

The mocking Universe stabs with invisible glances,

And Beauty no longer flowers in my sad heart.

For a pair of slippers she has sold her soul;

And when the Bon Dieu giggles at such infamy

I am a Tartuffe, a hypocrite, a liar,

A sell-out, whoring away my author's dreams....

Despite this, you are content to bizarrely chat

Past midnight as we promenade down a ruined street;

In your head, your eyes turn down--a dying pigeon's--

Trained on the crimson rivulets torn by talons

Of paying Men who spit jiggers of semen

On your distant face--simple, poor and impure.

You are Famine in the dead of Winter

Constrained by poverty to lift your dress in the chilly air.

--My beautiful one, my everything, my richness,

My pearl, my light, my laughter, my suchness,

Here in my groin you are my vanquisher,

But in your two hands you re-heat my Heart's core.

Signed,

Anomie

…[Baudelaire’s dream journal]

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Aug 192011
 

The prick, swollen contortionist, turns up its oily face to his persecutor; there is a defect in its symmetry, the casual smoothness of its wrapper that was once so usual, unremarkable, pale and rosy. The deformed prick puckered its slim slit, took in a premonitory breath, and began, incredibly, to speak:

“Well, evil man, you have used me as a blind man uses his stick–thrust into every slimy obstacle in your periplum’s path! Odysseus did not abuse his wily wits with such prodigal purposelessness as you have used me! A divining rod born to locate vile mud would be cleaner after 300 years of dirty village service than I am at the the end of one day in your pulpy hands! Benedicte! I grew with you, and as you grew, in modest shadowed compartments, listening to the pure mumbled buzz of your mother’s voice above, your own answers polite and tame as an angel’s. This occurred for many years. I was powdered and sweet to smell or look upon.

“Then, from I know not where, a heat, a black lamp, a rising lava, an untamed flame, a fire, began to creep and increase along my veins, one evening after prayers, under the clean linen; up from the fat base, where irritating hairs had only begun to appear that lapping spring, a cauterizing stream began its inevitable flow.–Ah! that night has been the end of all my days since!–Because of you above, and your contemptible lack of imagination! You could have sought out an iron collar, a spike of ice to finish the inferno roasting my pink hide, a snip with a scissors or even, meekly, like a priest, wool underwear would have done the trick and abolished this hazardous destiny you have embarked both of us upon!

“Simpleton!

“But, no! You became a creature of soft gloves and furtive arrondisments; quick showers and false perfumes. And all the time, I alone would be left to feel the fire. And when it came, in sheets of faces like the shroud of Turin, obliterating the horizon the way a fire races through the forest, leaping even faster uphill than down, high on’ its own heatwaves, then–and then only!–you would turn your spoiled attentions to me, trying to dig myself a common grave in your thigh, or hiding behind the cool coins in your pocket for a minute’s respite. You would uncover me, startled and turgid and scarlet as a new-baked loaf of cinnamon bread, to the frightful ices of the night air. A single moment of relief and reprieve that hurt almost as much as it satisfied! But even this relief was a lie, for no sooner had I stood naked beneath the wan moon’s cynical scowl, than your hand was upon my throat in a wrestler’s chokehold, as if you would tear me from the very root of your ugly being! A feat, by the way, which you never managed, and which would have been best for both of us–and I would be free at last from the omnipresent odure of merde.

“The lavender of your pomp, the plump of your palpating hand soon brought me off in a miasma of fetid regrets. I sank, a shucked and scabbed husk, back into the truncated winter-stubble. If this was all, I would have been satisfied, knowing how adulthood degrades the child, and how pleasure lives leavened with disaster. But, no. This was not the end, nor was it the worst of it. Each night like a vampire I arose, not to suck but to flood the world! And you, my shambling harness, were glib in your approaches, fine in your dandy’s appurtenances–ties of newly drowned silkworms dyed black in the blood of Brahma bulls who died in rut, old with incestuous connections–a waistcoat of pomegranate, textured with the ruffing of pale Italian underaged hands, pointed shoes of the most uncommon cut and polished as a banker’s glance…. All these and all this, just so you could stick me like a sopping candle-end into some skeleton’s eye socket! Pocked debaucheries! Nights of imagined flight only, your soul never leaving, really, its nest of scars. Assignations of gaslamps, wet roads, and stained, undignified sofas. And all the time you held me like a runaway coal being danced across an unlighted room to be the firebucket.

“But now is when I have my satisfaction, my conclusion, my wild apotheosis. Do you feel the bramble-branch pulled through me every time you piss? Do you note the bruise-tinted discharge that chums the chamberpot like a fish-boat? Look at me! Look at what you have done to me! I am no longer the tender ribbon of pink that sat with you in the tub: I am moiled in distortions. My proud crown sags with the fatal lapses of a beached jellyfish. I, pouting dowser,” and here the purpled prick, agitated by his passionate appraisal of our differing powers over our mutual fate, wept a single, large, yellow and grey-pearl tear and continued “…we, have gonorrhea!”

I will record here this one generous, or noble, impulse of the prick in this wayward dream of mine. And that charity consisted in diagnosing itself with a simple case of gonococcal urethritis, and not the virulent madness, the compact degradation and cancellation of future hopes a case of syphilis would prophesy. I have been to the doctor since this dream, a Dr. Revieu, and I have, indeed, gonorrhea and syphilis both.

I passed a paralytic syphilitic this morning on the street. After a few inquiries made of the house owners in whose gutter this human stump rotted, I discovered that the man, who appeared older than my own father had seemed to me as a child (and I was born in my father’s sixtieth year!)–was only thirty four years of age, and wasn’t kicked from his terrible stoop because, like Electra, he was the son of the house-owner.

Two days ago, I passed my eighteenth year.