Cafe Talk with the Late Robert Desnos

by Elton Glaser

Nobody tells you how boring the dead are.
They never buy me booze or listen to my talk.

Ah, how I loved talking from the black hole of the radio,
My voice floating out to the dirty ears of Paris!

All those nights stumbling down the seasick streets!
Half monkey, half angel, I gave myself to

Bad jazz and movies, to the odors of old love,
To Breton and the poems of menace and marvel,

My hands in a trance, filling the dreamy pages.
And then, after the Resistance, the arrest, the first camps,

Everything came back: my father at his stand in Les Halles,
Wringing the necks of chickens; the sway of opium smoke;

The blues on wax; and Youki, with her mermaid tattoo.
At Terezin, in the last days, I held onto a rose

Even after the petals faded, and the creamy scent.
They burned me to ashes, that rose still in my fist.

Now here I am, only the Caporal on fire,
And a fresh glass before me, cool and full.

You may be sitting at this table to pick my brain,
But I’ve come here to pickle it.

Who these days, I ask you, can caper and rebel ?

Tonight, in the thirsty dark, I’m having none of it.

You might say that dead poets are always decomposing.
But if I’d known then what I know now,

I’d have started every book with the same line:
In case of catastrophe, break this poem.