Thursday, July 31, 2014
"Buster Keaton’s Ride" by Jack Spicer
a translation for Melvin Bakkerud
(Buster Keaton enters carrying four children in his arms.)
BUSTER KEATON (takes out a wooden dagger and kills them): My poor children!
BUSTER KEATON (counting the corpses on the ground): One, two, three, four. (Grabs a bicycle and goes.)
(Among the old rubber tires and cans of gasoline a Negro eats a straw hat.)
BUSTER KEATON: What a beautiful afternoon!
(A parrot flutters around in the sexless sky.)
BUSTER KEATON: I like riding a bicycle.
THE OWL: Toowit toowoo.
BUSTER KEATON: How beautifully these birds sing!
THE OWL: Hoo!
BUSTER KEATON: It’s lovely!
(Pause. Buster Keaton ineffably crosses the rushes and little fields of rye. The landscape shorten itself beneath the wheels of his machine. The bicycle has a single dimension. It is able to enter books and to expand itself even into operas and coalmines. The bicycle of Buster Keaton does not have a riding seat of caramel or sugar pedals like the bicycles bad men ride. It is a bicycle like all bicycles except for a unique drenching of innocence. Adam and Even run by, frightened as if they were carrying a vase full of water and, in passing, pet the bicycle of Buster Keaton.)
BUSTER KEATON: Ah, love, love!
(Buster Keaton falls to the ground. The bicycle escapes him. It runs behind two enormous gray butterflies. It skims madly half an inch from the ground.)
BUSTER KEATON: I don’t want to talk. Won’t somebody please say something?
A VOICE: Fool!
(He continues walking. His eyes, infinite and sad like a newly born animal, dream of lilies and angels and silken belts. His eyes which are like the bottom of a vase. His eyes of a mad child. Which are most faithful. Which are most beautiful. The eyes of an ostrich. His human eyes with a secure equipoise with melancholy. Philadelphia is seen in the distance. The inhabitants of that city now know that the old poem of a Singer machine is able to encircle the big roses of the greenhouse but not at all to comprehened the poetic difference between a bowl of hot tea and a bowl of cold tea. Philadelphia sines in the distance.)
(An American girl with eyes of celluloid comes through the grass.)
THE AMERICAN: Hello.
(Buster Keaton smiles and looks at the shoes of the girl. Those shoes! We do not have to admire her shoes. It would take a crocodile to wear them.)
BUSTER KEATON: I would have liked—
THE AMERICAN (breathless): Do you carry a sword decked with myrtle leaves?
(Buster Keaton shrugs his shoulders and lifts his right foot.)
THE AMERICAN: Do you have a ring with a poisoned stone?
(Buster Keaton twists slowly and lifts an inquiring leg.)
THE AMERICAN: Well?
(Four angles with wings of a heavenly gas balloon piss among the flowers. The ladies of the town play a piano as if they were riding a bicycle. The waltz, a moon, and seventeen Indian canoes rock the precious heart of our friend. As the greatest surprise of all, autumn has invaded the garden like water explodes a geometrical clump of sugar.)
BUSTER KEATON (sighing): I would have liked to have been a swan. But I can’t do what I would have liked. Because—What happened to my hat? Where is my collar of little birds and my mohair necktie? What a disgrace!
(A young girl with a wasp waist and a high collar comes in on a bicycle. She has the head of a nightingale.)
YOUNG GIRL: Whom do I have the honor of saluting?
BUSTER KEATON (with a bow): Buster Keaton.
(The young girl faints and falls off the bicycle. Her legs on the ground tremble like two agonized cobras. A gramophone plays a thousand versions of the same song—“In Philadelphia they have no nightingales.”)
BUSTER KEATON (kneeling): Darling Miss Eleanor, pardon me! (lower) Darling (lower still) Darling (lowest) Darling.
(The lights of Philadelphia flicker and go out in the faces of a thousand policemen.)
from my vocabulary did this to me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer
Random Name Poetry Series
(at our very own Penn Book Center)
Readings are on Saturdays at 2pm