The Chamois by Sébastien Smirou


1: Bröndby

It’s round inside Bröndby that brandish my chamois
the handsomest huzzah badaboom of his name like a bump
or donkey humps for ears hear you’re pulling the wool
over my eyes by waving a magic stick (I wink-wink a Danish
camel into the caravan) and if nothing no longer appears
truer everything is really real to me who never saw aught of it
Bröndby is a chamois like any other hic
et nunc it’s for you to see–like any other.

2: Serendipity

With the binoculars on the crown we adjust to few
things and other imaginings of the spirit (the wrong lens
braises an image) the clearest of time in the white of what eyes
emerges from who knows whose head-focus pocus?
but it’s slow: serendipity is our only method known
and from afar the beast is washed out in a flash dissolved
inside the powdery snow one never really walks
except in his steps–but it’s for you to see.

3: A Protothought

With a hair of luck gone out of his gourd
Rupicapra rupicapra whose last name derives like
so from the first a rainstorm sometimes reverses the snow
inside the globe shaved lobe to lobe if one idea founds
the other always pushes farther the quest of the two
vanilla beans that rummage at the moment the ground
in search of the least protothought that falls
on one will pose: for posterity’s sake it’s up to you to see.

4: Niort

(Of the girls in the chamois factories anointed in my town
who tanned the hide of time with their peeps to stretch out
*******the breaks between gloves
I’m thinking while observing Mister Boinot beyond my own
that we could extend a gesture by touching their hands
so much skin has softened so many beasts
have climbed the mountains I wanted to hoist
their memory by composing a waltz for their feet
by force of circumstance a doe-eyed belay–but hey.)

5: The wax

If I keep some under the treads at the speed of
vertigo eagle owl at eleven o’clock of light
gets mixed in like that with despair the trembling
goat that drags me onto his sandy crag
this horn will either kill me or no alternative–ah
if only I had Swix wax stuck to my octopus quickness
from the peak snagged by a crevasse and by humanity
for my disappearance I’d fall in a rut but–ah.

6: The reflector

On the floor of the mine were it me pushing up
fresh as a daisy bright laser red I’d have this rifle scope
fitted with one reflector for every chamois lost
among the wind buffed boulders with my headlamp to the cooler
side of the bluff (a shiver like off
a ski jump) I’d hold the line and to kick off the torchlight
parade of my herd would trigger for you
an avalanche out of eyelash flutter–go figure.

7: Thrace

Upon the smoldering of the fires from the hearth of the heart
we’ll phew like a fool on skis from the outskirts
of memory from memory we’ll exhume a Thrace
of the first Ungulates we’ll look for a body
won’t see any farther than the tip of one’s nose
frozen we’ll be flabbergasted discovering of our very eyes
that they toggle or ogle like a one-man band
and that we’re none other than he–it’s you you see.

8: Everest

So it happens the altitude mounts to the head
of a battalion of thoughts an attack on who mounts
no Everest can hold the lead climber back
flat on his face no leader who’d maneuver alone
in his labor who’s stoned off his face nothing hangs except by a thread
wholly imaginary (me it’ll come to eat
out of my hand the animal) no need to hear it
giving way already we’re no longer there–it’s you who see.


Sébastien Smirou

Sébastien Smirou is the author of three poetry volumes from the experimental Paris house P.O.L.: Un temps pour s'étreindre (2011), Beau voir (2008), and Mon Laurent (2003). He founded éditions rup&rud, whose chapbook series has been reprinted by Éditions de l'Attente as rup&rud: l'intégrale, 1999-2004. The recipient of numerous awards, including a Bourse de découverte from the Centre national du Livre and a fellowship from the Conseil Régional d'Ile de France, he participated in the Mission Stendhal sponsored by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has translated several American poets into French. A psychoanalyst, Smirou has contributed essays to psychoanalytical texts, canonical and contemporary alike, including Sándor Ferenczi's Un petit homme-coq (2012) and Albert Ayler's Témoignages sur un holy ghost (2010). He authored the preface to a new translation of Freud's Le petit Hans (2011), and his translation from the Italian of Antonino Ferro's Rêveries was just published. Smirou co-directs the journal LIGNE 13. Currently he's researching and writing a book on photographer Robert Capa.

Andrew Zawacki

Andrew Zawacki is the author of the poetry books Videotape (Counterpath), Petals of Zero Petals of One (Talisman House), Anabranch (Wesleyan), and By Reason of Breakings (Georgia). His recent chapbooks include Arrow's shadow (Equipage), Georgia (Katalanché/Scary Topiary), and Roche limit (tir aux pigeons). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, the New Republic, The Nation, and elsewhere, and he has published three books in France: Georgia and Carnet Bartleby, translated by Sika Fakambi, and Par Raison de brisants, translated by Antoine Cazé--a finalist for Le Prix Nelly Sachs. My Lorenzo, Zawacki's translation of Sébastien Smirou's Mon Laurent, is out from Burning Deck, with a foreword by Jennifer Moxley. A former fellow of the Slovenian Writers' Association, Zawacki edited Afterwards: Slovenian Writing 1945-1995 (White Pine) and edited and co-translated Aleš Debeljak's Without Anesthesia: New and Selected Poems (Persea). He is coeditor of the journal Verse, The Verse Book of Interviews (Verse), and Gustaf Sobin's Collected Poems (Talisman). He is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Georgia, where he directs the doctoral Creative Writing Program.

Beau voir (Bestiaire). Copyright (c) P.O.L., 2008. English translation copyright (c) Andrew Zawacki, 2014.