Louis Armand

The Prague Connection

Ariadne’s Thread

after the long night her arms
like an astrological map full of endless zeroes …
without knowing why she takes
the dulled constellation of her eyes
& offers them up to her dealer in kings cross–
she says that if she can have
one more hit
she’ll hide it somewhere in her body
where the sickness won’t find it
she says one more hit
will give her courage
to go blind through the world
with a cardboard sign a bowl & a walking cane –
but just for good luck
she conceals her last needle deep inside
her last candle her last square of foil
she ties a spoon around her neck
on a cotton thread
as a last reminder of the way home –
though she says on the doorstep:
anyway, this time i’m not coming back

CENDRILLON

a mechanical hand
gropes
in the desert

silent matrimonial
(of blood
under brittle nails) –

too late – already
the senseless
pantomime, mourning

the solemn
refusal of
(unspoken) words –

an ashtray conceals
its anonymous
accumulation of burnings

nightsend …
lipstick traces
on a cigarette

Die Götterdämmerung*
(for M.E.R.)

its clock towers hang in the darkening light
i might have thought
within the broken glass of the immanent or
beyond that one time’s
hypnotic voice had conjured another’s from
immutable dust
or that the giant’s harp of brooklyn bridge
was no less than
the first wavering note struck of iron run to water

whether you told me then that it was real
the apperception
of this byzantium its vast impenetrable spaces
no longer matters
that there have been others like me
unmindful
struggling towards the infinite plateaux
of danté’s other city
this alone will have fulfilled my soul’s prophesy

yet whatever now remains of those fevered eyes
that once fixed
the pole star in its solitary region
falls away
& in a silent vertigo of fable i am left alone
to navigate
visionless among the dark celestial
whisperings
without ever being able to lessen their enigma

* First published in Island, Hobart (Australia), 1997.

(for MERone will have fulfilled my soul-thout ever being able to lessen)

PAYS DE COCAÏNE

time stops through the ice inert
as a lover’s hand exhausted by pretence
cut off from any gesture of denial

you fade / outside is memory
scarcely real a frozen island of air

or suffocation or inevitability encloses
in a narrow space / beguiles
with et ceteras & alibis

the time it takes to adjust
a guilty truth in a pale reflection …

none of this matters though
if you can breathe underwater
like houdini / counting the seconds
between impossible escapes

PRAGUE SPRING
(for James Alexander, b. 18.VIII.96)

because snow had fallen then, too –
infirmary windows cold &
anaesthetic, staring out on the
slow funeral of autumn trees –

as if something remote & unfamiliar
had looked back appalled through the glass,
& cast a shadow that is always
melting before it can reach the other side –

or else becomes in time the apparition
of a place (where guilt & the fugitive
once grappled in a passionless arrest,
or two lovers dreamt of innocence

while their child lay, atrocious & dying);
frozen there – beyond the mirror that first
compelled you into life, like an intuition
of absence – an image, a name …

in darkness now i turn from your dream
to the prison of my solitude – condemned
for all the words i will never write
& watching your eyes impatient for death –

though memory fails, at last to know: that
i must love what i could not understand

REFLECTIONS IN AN EYE
(for Robert Adamson)

tracing contours – 
               an estuary
         rail line
the iron black
      latticework of
            a suspension
                  bridge – (re-)
marking a division
         in the      liquid
            syntax of
its mirror – 
      a signal
               light – the frag-
         mented
   geometry of
            compartment
windows – 
      sudden hulk of
               a commuter   train
         breaking
            into view – 
a livid span
               between
   stationary points of
                  negation – 
      balanced (there)
            above
         the shifting
   axis of         the river – its
tidal shadows
            reverse-
                  imaging
      gathered
         in (horizontal      mimicry of)
   an echo – lucent – 
               beneath
the slow
            pelvic un-
      dulations of
                  seagrass – 
   the sibilant
               lacunæ
deep      in the riverbed – 
      becoming
            (in)visible – only
   the faint
                  distant
         groaning of
steel tracks – 
      half-mute      tremor – 
            plunging
   down               (in)to
      hollowed
         earth
                     (its
               sinister
traumdeutung) – 
         night
      draws across
                  the water's
   unblinking – 
            repeats – 
         an aperture
framing
               ex-/   in-teriority

Since mid-1994 Louis Armand has lived in the Czech Republic where he teaches seminars on Aus. Lit. and Cultural Theory at Charles University. His first full-length collection of poetry was published this year by Twisted Spoon Press (Prague), and two more collections are forthcoming (x-pozie/Twisted Spoon Press). He is currently poetry ed. of The Prague Revue.

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