J’avais ça dans le sang

[N]one among us dares to say
What none will chose to hear.
          —L. E. L.1


          Translation allows us to eavesdrop

on another’s thoughts, pariah dogs
scraping with wagging tongues shaken skulls
as if they were upturned begging bowls,
emptying heads of what looks better
written down than when spoken aloud,

ribald stories that want to be told
wandering strangers’ pages, vagrant
languages taking hold, to set a
book on the day on which it is to
be published takes balls, if no one reads

it then the immediacy of
its fading prophecy fails, built-in
obsolescence in its truest sense,
but true art has no expiry date,
an apocalypse without end, which

is what saves it from the scorpion
claws of anachronism, what makes an
escape possible if not at all
plausible, I had it in the blood,
myself, this throbbing pulse walking through

my breath into the heaven that is
this atmosphere filling up with the
stuff expressing whatever I want,
however I wish, whenever I
choose, in any form I can think of,

with little-to-no consequences
except, perhaps, that of ending up
so misunderstood what you make makes
you feel so unwanted, eclipsed by
a name, in my room of images

the dark smoke of sweet incense fills my
stomach with hunger, tears like the sweat
of angels spill into my hands and
feel like burning coals, this charcoal I
hold stills the flipping of pages, fills

          in their blank faces with lines my thoughts


          blacken, history unfolding as

I write of it happening before
it can repent and change direction,
I had it in the blood, felt its wealth
travel in all directions, this mouth’s
wet talent silvering the tongue and

bending the palm around my pen, head
and tales saying then what no one could
understand or wanted to, since I
spoke of what was to happen to them
now, answering how I knew this would

end, «J’avais ça dans le sang,» singing
a divisive psalm that drew this world
to oblivion with words which threw it
in the way strange music throws into
fits those who became madmen after

hearing played what I always told them
would be their undoing, but no one
listened until it was already
too late, what I heard when I made then
translated my Self was a secret

for which English has no meaning, and
so I keep it protected like a
delicate relic, or a readied
weapon, a splintered finger of bone
worn like a sword, reverent for, yet

unaffected by, the impact it
has had, and will again, on the world
long after this ink has dried and seas
have swallowed ships that have forgotten
their names and the way back home to their

foreign shores, only then will what I
write ignite what revives the dim from
the depth of their sleep and brings them each
back into the increasing light of
reason, seeking to find what I have

          never stopped telling them since spilling.

1L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “Lines of Life”, [Stanza 11, Lines 43–44], in “Tales and Miscellaneous Poems” of The Poetical Works of Miss Landon: Comprising The Improvisatrice, The Troubadour, Venetian Bracelet, Golden Violet, Vow of the Peacock, The Easter Gift, etc.[,] etc.[,] etc., published at Philadelphia by E. L. Carey and A. Hart in 1839; page 139.