Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Djuna Barnes

Born this day in 1892: Djuna Barnes (1892–1982), journalist, illustrator, and avante garde writer of drama, fiction, and poetry. Barnes was a well-respected member of the Paris literary scene of the 1920s and 1930s. She is remembered especially for her poetry collection The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings and the novel Nightwood.

A sampling:

From Fifth Avenue Up

SOMEDAY beneath some hard
Capricious star—
Spreading its light a little
Over far,
We'll know you for the woman
That you are.

For though one took you, hurled you
Out of space,
With your legs half strangled
In your lace,
You'd lip the world to madness
On your face.

We'd see your body in the grass
With cool pale eyes.
We'd strain to touch those lang'rous
Length of thighs,
And hear your short sharp modern
Babylonic cries.

It wouldn't go. We'd feel you
Coil in fear
Leaning across the fertile
Fields to leer
As you urged some bitter secret
Through the ear.

We see your arms grow humid
In the heat;
We see your damp chemise lie
Pulsing in the beat
Of the over-hearts left oozing
At your feet.

See you sagging down with bulging
Hair to sip,
The dappled damp from some vague
Under lip,
Your soft saliva, loosed
With orgy, drip.

Once we'd not have called this
Woman you—
When leaning above your mother's
Spleen you drew
Your mouth across her breast as
Trick musicians do.

Plunging grandly out to fall
Upon your face.
In grimace,
With your belly bulging stately
Into space.


Corpse A

THEY brought her in, a shattered small
With a little bruised body like
A startled moon;
And all the subtle symphonies of her
A twilight rune.

Corpse B

THEY gave her hurried shoves this way
And that.
Her body shock-abbreviated
As a city cat.
She lay out listlessly like some small mug
Of beer gone flat.

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