I Would like to Pay for your Chips, by Cécile Coulon (2018, Le Castor Astral)

It began at that so particular time of the night
where the end of one day bumps up against the start of another;
I went out in the rain, I was hungry.
The storm unleashed its warm hail on the flapping shutters,
no one else was walking in the streets
which were slick and seeped down to the square at the bottom
where the fountain overflowed.
Normally bony dogs would be having a bath there
but now, no barking, no whistles.
The night, the rain, the heat.
I crossed the road. A guy waved from the other side:
two fingers and a mouth ajar to ask
if I had something to smoke, I threw up an open hand
flapping, like the shutters, to show him that no,
and I went on, face buried in my oversize hoody,
hair full of the smell of a day
that wasn’t quite done.
By the sign, a young girl in a pink skirt and a guy
with a haircut that recalled the best moments
of Agnés Varda, waited their turn to order a kebab
with extra cheese.
The girl looked at the mounted flat-screen
on the wall showing clips of american pop,
the guy threw and caught a plastic bottle behind him
turning it over skilfully.
After they’d paid, the owner said
“Sorry for the wait”
I’d only just arrived, so that made me smile;
“a box of chips, with ketchup
okay
you can wait
inside.”
So I waited, standing, leant against the fridge
in front of the empty salad trays.
It was then that a man, soaked to the bone, came in.
I pushed myself aside to let him pass:
his clothes gave off a smell of cement
and cheap alcohol, his hair cropped short, grey,
held water
like the surface of a field at four in the morning.
He ordered.
At the moment I went to pay for my chips, he fixed his eyes,
eyes rounder than the beak of a Flemish rose,
the weak mouth of those tired men who drink
a bit too much and who accept it,
he looked at me for a while,
and stammered:
“I don’t know what to say to you.”
At first I thought he was winding me up, but all the same,
his eyes, his eyes!
“How’s that?”
He took a great breath, as if each word
tore from him half of a lung:
“I don’t know what to say to you, Miss”
The guy behind the counter listened with one ear
filling the industrial chip trays.
“You don’t have to say anything to me”
I responded, shaking my jumper.
“I don’t know what to say to you because I know who you are.”
The rain left lightly shining grooves, falling
from his skull to the bottom of his nose.
I didn’t know what to say either:
midnight wasn’t far off, I’d come looking for what to expect til morning,
and this guy, perfectly drunk and sound of mind, seemed
about to cave in on himself.
“I know who you are, you write books.
How do you do it?”
“Well, however I can.”
He gave himself a tap on the knees, and then
in one go,
tears, sweat
of the rain which comes from the inside
something humid and sincere came over his look,
already drowning in solitude and the bizarre night.
He turned towards the guy
who folded
the orange trays
with the precision of a dental surgeon.
“I can tell you that I didn’t get soaked tonight for nothing, no way!”
At my back, the fridge hummed.
A light smile installed itself, naturally
between my dimples.
On the counter, my chips were ready, well packed.
I took out my coin
a two euro piece and the drowned man said to me:
“I would like to pay for your chips, if you don’t mind.”
I sighed and left my coin between him and me, then I offered my hand.
He shook it.
“Thanks, mister”
and I left, my bundle of chips on my wrist.
On the way back, the characteristic smell of chip fat
invaded my nostrils, my hair, my clothes.
I will probably never see that man again, or at least, not like that.
Since yesterday, I’ve wanted to write about him, because I wonder
which of us in a few months, in a few years, will be betrayed
by the image they have constructed
of the outside world?
Will it be for others to shake hands
at that hour of the night
for a box of lukewarm chips and an iceless cola?
I would like for poetry to be as natural to those
who surround me as the emotion
that sprang forth that night, before that square
with the improbable ease of moments that might not have been,
but that happened all the same, poorly thought out
overflowing with grace, and impossible words

Loki

Okay. The colours of the world
are so bursting from everything
when I drive the car home that I cry
or almost – just to see the patterns.

How subtle, how elementally subtle –
there is no easy way to say this
how the greens between greens are vast
hold whole languages with space to pass by.

The trees at the traffic lights, with branchmass
reach out for a future less worrisome
in a concord of orange, yellow, and greens –
Fireworks pretend to the complexity

and brightness of these trees.
This is not hyperbole. Reach, I say.
I go home and make the beds
for my family, forget the night –

except your eyes, holding mine
like a caught spider in their blue fire
never relenting, and your smile. My friend,
I create endless worlds to try match it

The Unplanned

Note: Descartes’ aesthetics held that a creation of many minds can never be as beautiful as one mind, a creation made by an isolated or lone consciousness. This is an interesting analog to his epistemology. However,  the idea of an isolated consciousness, aesthetic or otherwise, is incoherent, and so…

What better way
to give the lie
to Descartes

than to stand
in the muggy heat
here, on the periphery

where seed foam rises
up between us –
the city in a depth of shade

Where cloud and sun judder –
undecided
who will win the day.

The heat and sweat will have it
drawing the patchwork
city deeper into distances.

No one mind held this.
And yet – here it is
Miyazaki perfect.

V.31

It was buoyant and hot as I
was driven under – clear fumes
were drifting in front of my thoughts.
I was dwelling on road rage when

there came the bars in Dvorak 9,
between the first timpani and
the oboe’s solo voice and tune,
and I felt quiet in the sun

with the smell of synthetic cars,
and I didn’t let my mind run
hectic over all the aspects
that may have been wrong with that time

(were there any?*) and those bars seemed
then to express exactly that
moment. But later in bed, past
midnight I couldn’t hear it when

I searched many renditions on
youtube for a feeling. Exact
physical opposite to the
nagging Ligeti requiem

which I like in a bright mood but
now seems to sharpen headache. Tea
has replaced my bloodstream. I take
paracetamol to keep on

*yes

Path

Occasionally walk down a path such that you wouldn’t mind to die at the end of it. Having seen the beech seed pods’ dark red and the leaves’ brown, damp on the verges, having felt the cold breeze chill your hand on the umbrella, having said ‘cold I welcome you for a moment’ til it echoes in your fingers and having heard the pop of the rain on plastic like rice crispies in a bowl on a quiet morning. And the greens oh the greens of the trees in towering walls and your lone figure at the base. And the end comes with a sigh of a ‘we have to die sometime. And now is a moment for that, having walked down that path.’ Across the way, the hill of trees sits in the misty rain, magentas and grey greens. Colours shore us.

But there remains this; that an act of self abnegation is a kind of assertion of authority over the world. For the following reasons. Either you believe you should stop, in which case you believe you are powerful and too powerful to change yourself, a contradiction. Or you believe your assessment of things is the most true, which is arrogant, considering the world. Or your abnegation is in itself a challenge to the world, since you believe you can still win by not wanting anything. Or something else. If you would just submit to things, you would have a better time, but that’s what I was saying, wasn’t it? No, I was saying something else. I forget.

Outside it has rained on and off all night. The sodden tea bag is cold in the bottom of the cup. I pop a small fruit gum in my mouth and chew it.

Push

You wouldn’t perhaps have thought it,
but when the world ran out of fuel
there was a beautiful moment –
when, like bluebells emerging
from behind a rotten log
in the sunlight, skateboards, bikes
scooters, wheelchairs, wheels
of a different kind could be seen
enjoying a bright discovery
feeling the wind in their shirts, skirts
and the sweat, cold on the back;
Where the snap of wheels on tarmac
was like applause for a spent era.
They sped down natural speedways
and the flatland, their adopted birth
right, was finally theirs, they ran
from here to there never touching
the floor, and to the footbound were
the world they never quite could see –
something flashing in the daylight
amongst a quiet field. They bled speed
until electric hums seeded and the world
wasn’t quite as theirs as before;
Still they travelled, and never forgot
the days that had been their sport
hurtling along in the faint breeze
feeling the beach beneath their street
shedding a tear at quiet music