Waiting for Pernod
Walking up the rue du Odessa
then walking back down again
it’s tough to contemplate
the parameters of transcendence
when you’re looking for a bar
a bar in which a woman once
whispered something into your ear
a bar in which Beckett once
waited interminably for the barman
to bring him a glass of Pernod.
On the boulevard Edgar Quinet
your shadow suddenly detaches
disappears into a film noir alley
leaving you in Sartre’s lonely ontology
like a hapless fly in a chunk of amber.
In the café some are seated
others are getting up and going away
some with a feisty truculence some
with a wavering kind of hesitation
that distends the definition of time
while others are trying to appropriate
the shambling remains of your subjectivity.
And in the many stately plane trees
on the other side of the square
the red squirrels are dying of old age.
Of Genealogy and Emancipation
The one delineation is imbued with love;
the other with hate. Parallel to history
the philosophy enriches you
while the alcohol diminishes the pain.
Or is it the other way around?
When you live inside of a cloud
the walls don’t keep you in
nor do they keep anything out
nor are there really any walls at all.
You just live inside of a cloud.
That racket coming up from the plaza—
the birthing of another endangered species.
And then the sky goes all vortexy
with clouds for which we have specific names
but rarely if ever articulate.
The ways of being and seeing beyond
affluence and poverty and the mountains
across the river where someone lives
in a time all their own—
the greatest luxury of all.
At this point in time
the lion’s share of our suffering
is basically an attitude.
Our fathers fucked our mothers
and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Walking down the street
the afflictions held at bay
uninflected just reeling
feeling more feminine
than any woman in sight.
What is it that’s so
about all those flowers
bending in the wind?
It’s me, the crypto-symbolist,
addressing the nascent day,
crashing through the roof
of the church of testosterone,
solidifying the moment
in the flux of history where
no acolyte can ever hope to go.
Crossing the intersection
my eyes are met by
those of the hearse driver
whose smile collides with me
in the zebra-striped crosswalk.
The Undying Guest
You die again and you’re born again and this time around you’re The Undying Guest in a room with a hotplate upstairs in back in The Palace of Birth & Death from where you look down at the expansive gardens and neatly trimmed lawns and see the gardener standing by the idling lawnmower trying to decide whether to mow the lawn in parallel swaths or concentric circles as though it was the only game in town and as much as you are able to enjoy being exempt from the contingencies of Time which for The Undying Guest is neither linear nor analog neither finite nor infinite it is not without a certain pang of nostalgia that you watch the gardener standing there caught up in his cloud of ambiguity and indecision like the cloud of nauseating exhaust fumes spewing from the sputtering lawnmower as you remember how it used to be when life was an unbound narrative and closure was its editor and carbon monoxide was something you had to be afraid of and not just a pretty shade of blue hovering there above the deep emerald green of the lawn.
Hour of the Wolf
In this Ingmar Bergman film better known as “my life,” shot through and through with chintz and vapors, spectral estrangement, loony symbolism and a dearth of saving graces, there is a certain edginess, albeit rational and circumscribed, like Rimbaud’s deranged senses (in the proper translation), as memory and amnesia engage in another one of their tedious dialogues which invariably end in unresolved dispute, while the full moon appears locked between the bare branches of the ash tree outside my window giving birth to the illusion that time is indeed a mere concept and not an actual thing since things change and if they didn’t they wouldn’t be things at all like the stream out there in which the moon and the tree are now reflected which is flowing oh-so imperceptibly through the muted darkness yet flowing nonetheless.
The Grand System
As though on tiny rattling wheels inching along in small increments almost getting stuck in the cracks between the cobblestones glistening in the early morning rain in the long street with the many fine bars and bordellos just an empty bottle’s throw from the harbor the many thoughts and finely tuned acuities and various damnations all come together to form a Grand System that forges ahead in its dirty unkempt groove between the past and the present while perpetually turning inward toward the wavering instance of the eternal instant in a suspended moment of crass realization as to the nature of all things realized while blind windows and sooty facades reflect and absorb the diffuse weak gray light cast down through the clouds upon the vast metropolis of Hamburg and its one-point-seven-million citizens enmeshed in the process of rising to meet the new day.
Merging in the Rue Bonaparte
A tail-end-of-winter afternoon in a café across from St. Sulpice an elegant old lady looking a little bored & listless—perhaps a widow with nowhere else to go & nothing else to do—is horsing around with the hired help—haranguing the waiters—nagging the bartender—berating the owner—all in a playful jocular sort of way—not really getting on anyone’s nerves but rather providing a bit of welcome entertainment—now making a big show of preparing to leave—adjusting the scarf around her neck—smoothing her plaid skirt—adjusting her stylishly cut white hair—fussing with her handbag & gloves for the umpteenth time—but still not actually leaving & perpetually postponing her departure the whole thing obviously a regular Sunday afternoon ritual prior to returning to her flat alone to heat up a can of soup & feed some gourmet leftovers to her cat & when she’s finally left after a round of farewells & handshaking I’m watching how the bartender & the owner are standing behind the bar obviously talking about the old lady not in a disparaging or pitiful way but in a friendly & respectful manner which in turn bestows me with a warm sense of well-being which I find I’m able to take with me as I pay my bill & step out the door into the chilly early-evening Parisian air & when I glance up at the massive floodlit steeple of St. Sulpice profiled against the deep azure of the dusk-tinged sky it’s as though the feeling of well-being is suddenly merging with something larger than the church or even the sky itself encompassing everything in a sort of giant embrace which winds me up even further so that I’m flipping up my collar & striding up the rue Bonaparte now so much a part of everything around me that it’s actually getting a little frightening & spooky as though my self were suddenly on the verge of dissolving entirely & completely coalescing with my surroundings until there was nothing left of me whatsoever—which might not necessarily be such a bad thing after all.
Mark Terrill shipped out of San Francisco as a merchant seaman to the Far East and beyond, studied and spent time with Paul Bowles in Tangier, Morocco, and has lived in Germany since 1984, where he’s worked as a shipyard welder, road manager for rock bands, cook and postal worker. His writings and translations have appeared in City Lights Review, Bombay Gin, Partisan Review, Talisman, Skanky Possum and over 500 other journals and anthologies, a dozen chapbooks, several broadsides and three full-length collections, including Kid with Gray Eyes (Cedar Hill Books) and Bread & Fish (The Figures). He recently guest-edited a special German Poetry issue of the Atlanta Review, which includes his translations of Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann and many others. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his own work has been translated into German, French and Portuguese, and he’s given readings in various venues in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and Prague. He currently lives on the grounds of a former shipyard near Hamburg with his wife and a large brood of cats.