Louis Armand



I walk out in the bleak village and look for you

—Ted Berrigan

1. To begin with, a letter, a copied

address. Dear X,

New York is dying. Berrigan died

twenty-five years ago

waiting for the obituary. All

the great artisans have

forgotten you. Once again

embarked upon that second 

life, a product

of the god who failed.

I lie awake in the park at night

listening for children’s playground noises.

A dreamless charity

settling the old accounts: Louise’s

rum-mouth, Clare’s vagina,

Petya’s yellowgreen eyes.

Pieces of time and circumstance

in a one-night show, dressed in newspaper

and hazard lights. Broke everything

because you loved

to make things out of pieces. 

Jane in the Midwest with her bandaged 

ego, Natascha in Germany.

A breakdown-signal flashing a hundred-thousand

Marilyn Monroes, steeled against

some dim freeze of pain and happenstance.

How long can we outlive John Keats?

The act itself is not extensive. It is

a moment’s alcoholic urgency

pressing against you, feminine and tough,

emptying your pockets.

This is what sleep becomes, staring up

into a still, small place, all the outcomes methodised.

2. I was glad to receive your letter.

I was thinking about you just that moment and why I

hadn’t heard from you. You’re my mainstay

from the beginning. My lifeline, my umbilicus. A piece

of autobiography cut-off in mid-wrench.

We were the late ones who made it too soon

into this world. There were

bugs in your brain, white ants and black ants

stealing softly across fields of permafrost. A thousand

red leaves covered them in autumn.

You were the one with eyes like a zoo. Woman-

hater, man-hater, snarling down 14th street.

I never knew you, I only wanted to be real,

pretending to follow-on into the disconnect. 

A chair beside a window, a face or a piece

of furniture. Minimal driftage of an ear’s

desolate murmuring, of rain stirring ashes into tarmac.

We grew up naked in the afternoon, into the same

non-story. A maternal ear and dead perfume:

staring at the cellophane, the mascara windows, the

neon meat hanging there by the thinnest of threads.

3. A naked man in a window behind fifth avenue.

Six a.m. breakfast special: Fear eats the soul.

Time to arrange a new day, take it up and lock it.

Walking and forever walking beneath a sun that burns

a white hole in the sky. Anachronisms loom up

everywhere in this city, like The Brain that

Wouldn’t Die, Terror creatures from beyond the grave.

Shocking but true! And now we’re all here,

wandering through the eye’s atomic fallout shelter.

Sex photographs of a captive mind: The Infamous

House of Madame X, or The Diabolical Doctor Z

and his Fiendish Creation. Will it ever be possible

to find our way back through games and repetition?

The headlines have nothing new to say.

All in place, nothing in order; whole in spite

of being pieces. The crowd goes on with its life of 

nonsense, embarrassing us into joining-in. A ceremony 

of replacing the foot that precedes with the one that 

follows, face to face with the traffic signal’s menace.

4. Sweating it out under night-cover humidity:

how many genetic modifications preceded us?

Daybreak, copping it sweet in Chelsea, Midtown, then

on to 92nd street. Big Charles makes coffee,

fried eggs, toast on the side. Nourishment

if not for the soul (it is important to eat, 

come what may). Listening meanwhile at the 

talk-machine, hooked into the ear of things. 

True stories told in rhyme. We are

all perhaps the adopted points-of-view

of somebody. Should we be blamed for this?

Your letter arrived and I’m sorry too

not knowing where the future lies. 

John today is sick, D’s leaving town. (We live

according to details unrequited by History.)

Back again on the Lower East Side, why not

live perpetually in transit? Reading a ping-pong ball’s

return flight—the moment lengthens, days pass

this way. Or the world is nothing more

than an unstable intelligence that cannot decide

what to do with us. Still, there are reasons to inquire.

5. It was mid-June, a type of hysteria overtook us.

We were playing the part of latecomers

to a scene that had passed on. The Yankees

were at home to Pittsburg, jazzmen in the park.

A national hero nobody seemed to recognise

lay passed-out at the foot of the temperance

monument. Who can judge, if the visible world

is just so much furniture beneath a sky painted with

static and feedback? N called from a payphone 

in Europe, searching for the secret lives

of other people in faraway places. But these were

only re-enactments. Their promises, hinging upon

facts, could not be held. Dreaming of a man’s

or a woman’s full, bloodied mouth and darkening eyes.

Who engineers the mirror image? We expected

some type of movie, exposing the reason why. But

somebody had left the door open, slipping out

into rain and blackened celluloid. Thoughts, also, escape

at every opportunity: after hundreds of hours

of staring, there is nothing to look at, nothing left to see.