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Oporto-Style Tripe

ISSUE:  Spring 1996
One day, in a restaurant, outside of space and time,
I was served up love like a dish of cold tripe.
I politely told the missionary of the kitchen
That I preferred it hot,
Because tripe (and it was Oporto-style) is never eaten cold.

They got impatient with me.
You can never be right, not even in a restaurant.
I didn’t eat it, I ordered nothing else, I paid the bill,
And I decided to take a walk down the street.

Who knows what this might mean?
I don’t know, and it happened to me. . .

(I know very well that in everyone’s childhood there was a garden,
Private or public, or belonging to the neighbor.
I know very well that our playing was the owner of it
And that sadness is the owner today.)

I know this many times over,
But if I asked for love, why did they bring me
Oporto-style tripe that was cold?
It’s not a dish that can be eaten cold,
But they served it to me cold.
I didn’t make a fuss, but it was cold.
It can never be eaten cold, but it came cold.

*    **    *

No! All I want is freedom!
Love, glory and wealth are prisons.
Lovely rooms? Nice furniture? Plush rugs?
Just let me out so I can be with myself.
I want to breathe the air in private.
The beating of my heart isn’t a group affair,
And I’m unable to feel in jointly-held society.
I’m only I, born only as I am, full of nothing but me.
Where do I want to sleep? In the back yard.
Without any walls—lost in the great conversation—
I and the universe.
And how soothing it is to fall asleep seeing not the ghost of a
But the black and cool splendor of all the stars in concert,

The great infinite on high

Placing its breezes and solaces on the flesh-covered skull that’s my
Where only the eyes—another sky—reveal being in its subjective

I told you I don’t want it! Just give me freedom!
I want to be equal to myself.
Don’t castrate me with ideas!
Don’t put me into your straitjackets of manners!
Don’t make me commendable or intelligible!
Don’t make me into a living corpse!

I want to be able to throw this ball up to the moon
And hear it fall into the yard next door!
I want to lie down in the grass, thinking “Tomorrow I’ll go get it”. . .
Tomorrow I’ll go get it from the yard next door. . . .
Tomorrow I’ll go get it from the yard next door. . . .
Tomorrow I’ll go get it from the yard
Get it from the yard
From the yard
Next door. . . .

11 August 1930

Translated by Richard Zenith

But it’s not just the cadaver,
It’s not just that frightful person who’s no one,
That abysmal variation on the usual body,
That stranger who appears in the absence of the man we knew,
That gaping chasm between our seeing and our understanding—
It’s not just the cadaver that fills the soul with dread
And plants a silence in the bottom of the heart.
The everyday external things of the one who died
Also trouble the soul, and with a more poignant dread.

Even if they belonged to an enemy,
Who can see without nostalgia the table where this enemy sat,
The pen with which he wrote?
Who can see without heartfelt anguish
The coat in whose pockets the dead beggar kept his (now forever
    absent) hands,
The now horridly tidied up toys of the dead child,
The rifle the hunter took with him when he vanished beyond
    every hill?
All of this begins to gnaw at my foreign comprehension,
And a death-sized nostalgia terrifies my soul.


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