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Poetry

Stanzas on the Death of Guy Debord

by James Brook


contemplando
cómo se passa la vida,
cómo se viene la muerte
tan callando;
cúan presto se va el plazer. . . .

--Jorge Manrique, Coplas por la muerte de su padre

1.

wages murder the first caress
resplendent in the portal
salt on my cheek
dry timber set ablaze
each night robbed of all that I love

2.

the photograph in evidence
as many Hitlers as wanted
the lamp the piano the lecture
having replaced the map
wine breast written down

3.

the diagram of the village
constrains one to anguish
the bird flits into the dance
under a Western-movie sky
there's that echo for every shout

4.

we had the dream of water
we didn't come up for air
we could see clearly
you said strip me
you said pull me close

5.

a bitter draft from a broken cup
O countrymen washed tall
naked in sunlight in innocence
reclaimed to the warm embrace
genocidal recurrent thanksgiving

6.

"C'est un homme
ou une pierre
ou un arbre
qui va commencer
le quatrième chant."

7.

from the rubble of information
from the bottom of the raised glass
came this one man speaking
"la belle langue de mon siècle"
no more


Notes

Guy Debord (1931-1994), filmmaker, writer, and revolutionary, was one of the founders of the Situationist International. He is best known as the author of The Society of the Spectacle (1967)[translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, Zone Books: New York 1994]; his other books include Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988)[translated by Malcolm Imrie, Verso: London 1990] and Panegyric (1989)[translated by James Brook, Verso: London 1991]. Debord made the first French translation of Jorge Manrique's Coplas por la muerte de su padre (Jorge Manrique, Stances sur la mort de son père, Editions Champ Libre: Paris 1980).

The text of the sixth stanza is taken verbatim from the fourth canto of Les Chants de Maldoror by Lautréamont, a favorite writer of Debord's: "A man or a stone or a tree is going to begin the fourth canto."

The penultimate line of the seventh stanza is from Debord's Mémoires (privately printed in 1958; reprinted by Belles Lettres: Paris 1993), the last line of which reads: "Je voulais parler la belle langue de mon siècle." [I wanted to speak my century's beautiful language.] In his collage text, this was the only line that Debord himself authored.

May 1995

 

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