Culture Clash

Eating Poetry* (IV)


from Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France

by Blaise Cendrar

But I was a very bad poet.
I didn’t know how to go to all the way to the end.
I was hungry
And all the days and all the women in the cafés and all the glasses
I would have liked to drink and to break them
And all the shop windows and all the streets
And all the homes and all the lives
And all the wheels of the hackney cabs turning in a whirlwind on the bad cobblestones
I would have wanted to thrust them into a furnace of swords
And I would have wanted to crush all the bones
And to tear out all the tongues
And to liquefy all the big bodies strange and naked under the clothing that drives me to madness…
I sensed the coming of the great red Christ of the Russian revolution…
And the sun was a bad wound
That split open like a burnt up inferno.

I was in my adolescence at the time
I was scarcely sixteen and already I didn’t remember my birth
I was in Moscow, where I wanted to feed on flames
And they weren’t enough for me the towers and the railroad stations that studded my eyes like constellations
In Siberia the cannon roared, it was war
Hunger cold plague cholera
And the muddy waters of Love pulled along millions of carrion
In all the railroad stations I saw departing all the last trains
No one could leave any more for the tickets were no longer sold
And the soldiers who were going away would have very much liked to stay…
An old monk sang to me the legend of Novgorod.

Amedeo Modigliani. Portrait of Blaise Cendrars. 1918


*Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
~Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry,” Reasons for Moving, 1968