[from John Rodker,
Poems & Adolphe 1920
, edited by Andrew Crozier(Manchester: Carcanet, 1996), pp. 133-174]
What had slit up his sleep? His eyes opened but the mind closed again. Piercingsweet the dawn star pierced him, his bowels shivering round it. On swooning mistand the far billowing of a lugubrious howl he swayed, till falling nearer, high burstingbubbles pulled him from his sleep. Morning lies round him. Behind the inn a bugle, ina far land heard before. A tent. A child skips, a trumpet to its mouth; a Moor throwsup a ball. His soul fled after her through the cold light; snow falls, whirling ...Outside, clouds chase wildly over the sky and plunging into a rift, the star flies swiftly,gaily; and is swallowed in a sudden billowing of cloud.In the wide street, under the bare trees, lorries; and in the drizzle a scattered crowd.A large white horse bumps round and round, a boy hanging to its cord. And still thedim lugubrious howl and rattling of bars.Pent in cages, their choking burning smell makes a jungle round them. Tired, bored,they crouch in the dark vans, their very breath vitriol. Behind the bars, heads, teeth,eyes: lion or hyaena? A chattering monkey slobbers ---Toms acold---and a negro,enormous, smiling, walks round the cages, a shovel smoking in his hands. Poles aregoing up, men are pulling guy ropes, an unwilling gaiety is being forced on the street.Why do they go on living in the close cage, their bodies burnt through by the vitriolcaptivity distils in them. A man says I will die and dies; their breath, their dung, ispoison, they will not die. And yesterday they were fifty miles to north, tomorrow willbe fifty miles to south, and every day, day by day, the lions tents waxworks will beput up; that mob chase off in a frantic jingling of coins. Forever lions, waxworks,funny men, chasing through streets, the forests of hearts like trees lining road andpavement, the distance months, not miles, from the advance agent posting bills tothe last dragging caravan.Let him move off. He will meet that circus at Brives, Rocamadour, Figeac, Rodez, orelse the bills announcing it, until by accident on some waste heath, he caught theflying Banvards come to earth.
How like a fish this woman in mid air Swims, teeth clenched upon a wire,
Taut body a new moon, hands that respire ...
Himself. His wind-beaten, half legible placard still flapped on the walls of Claire, thecity of Anne, the capital of Marjorie, the wide empty street of Angela. Let him turn outhis lions, monkeys, blow his fanfare ... What then? A girl would tiptoe round her cage