The Body-Object and Other Examples
Translated by Lloyd Schwartz

1. The Body-Object

The object is this body
that envelops and subjugates,
common noun
transporting allegories.

The body is this object,
necessary adjective
stranger and less our own
than the least of our dreams.

This body—object
that’s neither mine, nor yours, 
nor death’s, nor any
other possessive pronoun’s.

The earth’s. It’s hers. The earth
which receives us warm,
open, and willing.
The earth’s and its elements.

This object is the earth’s,
the earth that eats you,
body and life (are they the same?),
fruit and life (your seeds).

And finally, whatever it may be,
this peel wrapped around us:
thing, earth, or grammar
contemptuous of the metaphysical,

the body is a peroration
from father to son (or to mother)
and the soul—the soul 
has nothing to do with it,

nothing but its location.



2. The House


The house is like the body:
brick is the cell
under the stucco,

a temporary shelter 
of blood, sand, and whitewash,

that in the beginning 
lived in water
and grew paws 
until it made itself real,

its secret places
infringed-upon,
its rooms undressed
and bolted by shame,

an object derived
from a joint effort 
that plants itself (in Space)
then blossoms (in Time),

and when it blossoms, 
it gives birth 
to Light and Beauty (curtains and flowers).



3. The Building


Body, house, building
they look like brothers
in Height, Shape, and Fear
and in being solitary. Solitary objects.

I see a construction
glittering enormous
and I tremble down to my 
foundation and moral fibers.

There, that which corrupts men:
	bed and table,
	bread and woman,
	love and the roof
	that protects us
                   —superimposed.
There, the laces and the pajama.

			There
	the “What do I owe?” and to whom.

			There
	the clipper and the lock 
	of hair on the floor.

			There
	the naked body,
	as if we’re in a doctor’s office.

The wool. The bullet. The irony.
The window. The cement. The betrayal.
The X-woman. The radius and circumference 
of the other. The way to the top

and the way of falling

into yourself, into the earth
		and on top of your brothers.

There
	the construction—
		a crude invention
		a cube of loneliness.



4. The Room


Through the door, I reach the room
of visits and feasts,
of deaths 
and long-winded ashtrays.

Curtains
		that take flight

g  l  a  s  s

surrounds grazing tables and
carpet-pastures.

On the sofa, apple-shaped
hips are sitting comfortably,
ankles woven in nylon
are balancing.

Enter through here, 
eat, and leave. Enter
the same way you leave 

and discussion 
isn’t always polite.

There the stereo—singing—
its wires and crystals
running needles over the eardrums
inside hi-fi grooves.

From this box, 
trills in 3-D.

—Like some cake? I’ll get it for you.
—Like some whiskey? I’ll bring it.

There your eyes fix on 
the curved video image,
arriving at a laugh
through familiar channels.

Who knows how they get in
with their ads and flashes
their cowboys and thousand theaters.

Here you spend the evening

on your favorite chair
until the image wipes itself out,

or sleep wipes out everything. 




5. The Table


I went to harvest you from the Vegetable
I went to mine you from the Mineral
and I put you back together as an animal
who, now naked, completes the room.

Tablet profound and blank 
	where I’m reborn,
	where my fists
	where my forks
and my ancestors in me
reflect on your varnish 
the same scar.

Slave shoulders, flat thirst,
how you lower yourself 

to the circle of hunger

			of friendships and chairs
			and well-turned legs

			where rounded restless hips 
			seat themselves sumptuously.

	Made well or made badly
the plane that made you
	chipped out of the ground
the bread of the man 
	that made you. 

PEACE!


	people shout somewhere over the table

			WAR!

	people shouted over the table before:
			flat kingdom
	 		sculpted in marble
			map
			hippodrome of passing beasts.
			
Above you I bend my flesh,
		my crystal,
		dry fists,
		coins, cathedrals
and staring 
I discover in your varnish
		the weight
		the image
		the scar
of this my body
that today is alive and contemplates you
and that tomorrow
	you’ll be holding up flickering in the candlelight.



6. The Telephone


Doubled over
the black trunk,
ear and mouth
inverted over
glass or varnish
                            —you rest
black object
acquired
at great cost
                            —you rest
corpse rounded
at four corners,
open fork
that feeds the mouth

                            —over
glass or varnish.

The clearest tinkling
bell of distances,

you transmit
plea and shout 
mineral and organic. 

Dull,
the hand that picks you up:
volatile indicator
perfumed nail polish.

You know how
to raise from the linens
the naked body. Suddenly
the Other possesses you 
and the door slams.

You receive
smile and spittle
without protest,
grave promises
in loving tones.

Annoying and stingy,
why don’t you offer your opinion?

You’re just a dark spot,
cold and motionless
                             over
glass or varnish.

They use you (I know)
because you don’t distort
—your speech is frozen.



7. The Refrigerator 


White and rounded
on the kitchen tiles,
near the table
with so many feet.

Wire after wire.
Indoors.

Petrified water
turned white
alaskan or siberian
“creamagulated.”

Inside:
unripened fruit harvested 
from a flowering field

a dozen of white,
oval things inside a shell,
with a yolk inside the clear,

with white 
drawn from tits
still warm between the paws,

dish after dish
holding lunch,
beer and relief
pouring out.

—Does So-and-So have? 
why don’t we have?

at the cost of
in spite of
thanks to

Before the visit, 
the white 
rears up.

Pull the handle, 
the white 
mouth gapes:

beside, above,
under, over,
with, beyond

Looking for some pretext
(to the heat, to summer)
I make a poem
with prepositions.



10. W.C.


You are the end

              of house
              of man
              of poem

              the ultimate remnant
              of the ultimate remnant.

Seated

              in the rounded white nook 
              of the commodious
              accommodation

You wait

              incommodious
              intestine

You receive

              mute, naked
              the integral verb
              (aquatic mouth
              gaping)

Humiliated

              more than humiliating
              you’re the general separator
              of good and evil
              pushbutton or chain
              rooommm rooommm blog blog
              blong rooaingg
              rooommmrooommm chainngg
              language
              blank
              again.

Translated with the assistance of Rogério Zola Santiago

The following have appeared previously:

  • “The Building,” Partisan Review, Winter 1995
  • “The Table,” Agni 48 (The Translation Issue), 1998
  • “The Telephone,” ibid.
  • “The Body-Object,” “A Contemporary Chapbook,” edited by Gail Mazur, Provincetown Arts, Summer 2003
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