The Garden /1 — Louis Armand

In 1994, in the company of Italian anarchist & photographer “Dekaro,” the author travelled across Morocco & the disputed Western Sahara. The notebooks from that journey furnished the basis for The Garden which, after appearing piecemeal in magazines, was published as the inaugural title in the Salt Modern Fiction Series (Cambridge, 2001). Long out-of-print, this complete, unexpurgated edition restores to its full scope a work that more than twenty years after it was written remains confronting. Hashish-infused, amphetamine-driven & ranging in bold thematic cross-cuts from the seminal “garden” of the Book of Genesis to Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights & The Perfumed Garden of Shaykh Nefzawi to Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden & Derek Jarman’s film of the same name, Armand’s The Garden is by turns excoriating & lyrical, political & pornographic, a blasphemous ransacking of literary & theological pieties – “a practice, an ascetic aesthetic,” as McKenzie Wark wrote in one early review, “for moving toward feeling in the pure form of its impurity.”


Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.
— Nietzsche

eyes lips dreams then night goes first nothing then night in the beginning before the time of confrontation of that intractable real of light & solid objects dawn of the word the preliterate sun tangled in branches of TV aerials wake up they’ve been expecting you lying there like a woman prepared to mock her makers all elbows & hipbones & spare ribs grubbying the seigniorial fingers licked till they gleam white as talismans of nativities painstakingly erected out of many false starts white as an egg as a lamb’s eye as boiled testes she can almost taste them enough to turn her stomach what kind of thing was the beginning do the lights come magically on & voilà you’re lying with your legs open in the middle of a photograph of utopia the sheets sweatsoaked wound in a truss from which a limp arm fernlike uncoils completing a shape that describes backwards one extremity to the other a dislocated ampersand or a bruised M tipped on its side or a semilegible Σ monogrammed on a piece of bloody sackcloth a ratty pillow that’s come unstuffed cradled there like a child’s lifesize placebo on that fleabed in that closet-room moulded to within a standard deviation while tormented hands probe for the unresponsive vein the rote melancholy at its heart the poetic core from which a curdled sentimentality radiates reaching for the vertigo of accomplished grace because one of the characteristics of things that’re plainly visible in this world is they’re not really seen at all but a woman isn’t dumb matter animated one gram at a time from precognitive static a broken record under the hypnotist’s needle a hologram with a mind-ray glitch in the Garden of Earthly Delights miscreant among miscreated objects waiting only to be taken in hand for the shem to be placed upon her forehead mouth tongue so as to sense to recall impressions this body this bed this room though being itself nothing but phonetic gush muttered foreignly from afar turned to dopplereffect yeux lèvres rêves a preceding echo a voice beside itself plagiarised spilling as if from nowhere the way Allah’s braille-fingers at His keyboard & words gushing spilling out of nowhere like cataracts of light & all things holy but it’s not enough to make a tabula rasa you open your eyes & they expect a miracle look it’s child’s play wanting a nursery rhyme to come out of your mouth the first dumb spoken syllables mama caca dada as if it’s the metaphysical upheaval of poetry to insist on the verbal qualities of things the physical sense while prose belongs to the essential relations of the universe but what’s it saying that pedantic oracle in your head première nuit & donc jour beginning with the first before all other nights & not just the one you can’t remember d’abord la nuit beginning or ending it’s all the same day night & then afterwards my pretty little pupil faire face à cette autre cette réalité de la lumière qui résiste because eyes these eyes your eyes needn’t be open for any of this to be literally or metaphorically real & it’s within her power she tells herself to refuse to say je refuse shaking off the barbiturate sleep-haze the hangover the tristesse postcoitum ce corps ce lit cette chambre & that voice étrangère insisting who or what & you feel her body lying tense & silent hopeless & beside her an other body M was listening to its breathing there in the distance like wind coursing through the street broken into an echo of an echo M for mute for ma mère for morte for migraine morphine misery for money machine mantra myxoma malaria for mongrel melanoma macabre morbid mandragora for mastectomy for meanness martyr mastoid for moaning bitchbody for missed messiah for manhole for Madame X mindwash & milk of human miserliness for momentary marred mutilated for all the malediction & menace & melodrama punctuated by most complicit silence & the silence around that silence like an echo in suspense that calls back aloud en silence to significations blotted-out snuffed during that endless preceding night into which everything she isn’t permitted to remember gets sucked its black parentheses never more than the blink of an eye away the non-time of its enclosing cadence but what’s it saying that black mouth at the end of her mind with its too-heavy consonants ses accords sinking discordantly one into another like waves around a wreck an unmeaning but relentless rhythm seizing pulling translating the instant again & again & again & again mort finitude détermination négativité in restless & frustrated monotone une monotonie turbulente whatever you want to call it obscuring her thoughts or what she thinks are her thoughts confusing them she opens her mouth & tries to speak becoming a past tense I’m getting ahead of myself she says but only in her head only in a manner of speaking elle ouvrait la bouche & essayer de parler shit do I have to listen to this all day every day hello world come in are you receiving over but nothing no-thing a dull empty sound a knot in her throat in her lungs un son vide knowing in reality that none of this belongs nothing belongs her thoughts her pleasure her body as ethereal as the magic cinema against the ceiling the wind in the curtains a pale light that flickers onoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoff performing spastic shadowplays across the side of her face her mouth in darkness a dark cavity beneath the black rings of her eyes lips in the stammering light & outside a muffled cadence of footsteps passing beneath the window the obstinately ticking clock murmur of language entangled strangely because inexplicable like hair someone’s not hers knotted around her tongue her face passively unresembling itself as all-of-a-sudden in a reflex she opens her eyes finally telling herself but only after the fact that she has no choice open she says & voilà a half-formed room in revolving tequila-yellow sunrise streaked red by eyelid-flutter twentyfour frames measuring each second minute hour how many frames would it take to depict a lifetime dedicated to secrecy its most secret part the shadow under the lamp the space between the words the same space between different words or different spaces between the same words making hieroglyphs of unsaying engraved white upon white yielding if only as a formality to subtle spectrographies of self-divided light she pictures a kaleidoscope whose coloured shapes dissolve instantly on contact with air like a language you only dream in while your alter-egos are forced to go on living it twentyfour-seven on pain of death no less that stepmother-tongue to her Cinderella sweeping out the ashpits of malevolent nonlife does she go there to escape or to surrender & be put out of her misery by someone anyone a complete stranger her Prince Charmless capable of a more definitive a more total violence she’d walk the length & breadth of the city on broken glass if only for the sweet blissful promise of conjugal braindamage already the bells are gonging in her ears but what’d be the minimum required for everything to be & remain incomprehensible forever like a poem written in words she can’t hope to understand beginning with a line & then the line faltering panic arc of a seabird stranded too far inland the futile beating of imaginary wings there where the eye breaks off suddenly & falls from the page towards the bedsheet the floor the stairs the street the river the smell of leaves & wet earth mingling in the sharp smell of the tanneries & she feels herself once more listening far off to an echo of an echo listening for the first disconnected murmurings of day just before dawn actually breaks straining to recall what it looks like when the sun rises on the red lines of rooftops or their redness sinks beneath the sun to imagine what type of sound it makes dragging itself over the dark cut of the High Atlas the ringing of granite the sudden intonations of prayer adhan which is the call to listen ’dhina penetrating the ear that listens ’udhun immaculate as the most immaculate of conceptions to bear witness that there is no God ’an lā ’ilāha but only the One prick finger cunt mouth anus sometimes in her dreams they used a hacksaw instead of poetry to cut her infidel body in half cut her hands off at the wrists first fear then pain shock haemorrhage & this’s the love thou bearest in the cries of the tortured amplified dawn morning midday afternoon night tied naked as Eve to the five pillars feet hands neck in the dust of the marketplace the fly-thickened hides of slaughtered camels perfuming the air as a crowd leers through the awnings the faces of tongue-lolling rutting dogs what does their Allah want shoving His langueparole into her without preamble as if thus to justly imitate life but what’d He know about it serenading Himself at His writingdesk for hours-on-end in beautiful phrasings no-one can understand having reduced everything to its elemental atomic kernel the pure words the secret language no-one to this day has succeeded in uttering not even their compassionate Allah their unthinkable Allah who no mouth anus cunt has ever sullied al-Rahman al-Rahmin but a woman too mustn’t be heard mustn’t be seen what would it prove if the blind without touching without listening could be made to believe in such a difference man & woman night & day day she murmured night as if either could mean anything after all something concrete a body her body this body a narrow band of perspiration about her wrist the air upon it cold as tempered steel brined leather piano wire when one of these hands touches the other is it true the things in question are my own bound to me as much as I’m bound to them because the guilty are punished or because the crime always befits the punishment these hands they’ll say touch the same things because they’re the hands of the one same body the things themselves the lived presence speaking understanding hearing the sound of a typewriter entering from a different room a dissonance of keys struck at irregular intervals yet all together in fluid symphony a palimpsest notes vibrating in air a naked body upon a bed in disarray a sheet of paper deeply indented & in places cut through bleeding exposing the barely legible traces of a subtext whose lines have either been crossed out with a similar violence or else appear to be dreaming themselves arranged as if in allegorical ecstasy crying no between clenched teeth lips no & choking on it because no means nothing means please means yes I will yes means l’interdit est là pour être violé if only to make it stop not even wishing everything in reverse but only to stop right there in the space between the images in the flicker of eyewhite & all her voodoo-mothers wading in blood re-endowed with lost powers of speech chanting fuck shit piss who’ll buy a word for 100 mitqāls & in unison they howl el feurdj the slit el keuss the vulva el kelmoune the voluptuous el ass the primitive ez zerzour the starling ech cheukk the chink abou tertour the crested one abou khochime the one with the little nose el guenfond the hedgehog es sakouti the silent one ed deukkak the crusher & tseguil the importunate el fechefache the watering-can el becha the horror el taleb the one-who-yearns el hacene the beautiful en neuffakh the one that swells abou djebaha the projection elouasa the vast one el dride the large one abou beldoum the glutton el mokaour the bottomless abou cheufrine the two lipped abou aungra the humpbacked el rorbal the sieve el hezzaz the restless el lezzaz the unionist el moudd the accommodating el moudine the assistant el mokeubbeub the vaulted one el meusboul the long one el molki the duellist el mokabeul the ever-ready-for-the-fray el harrab the fugitive el sabeur the resigned el maoui the juicy el moseuffah the barred one el mezour the deep one el addad the biter el menssass the sucker el zeunbur the wasp el harr the hot one el ladid the delicious the cushion the pillow the table the brushstroke Ô what engines of sorcery are these invading her subconscious like abject DNA the thousand&one horrors its takes to manufacture a birthcanal for whatever selfproclaimed Son-of-Man happens to come along & wouldn’t that Christ’s Y chromosome have been something to behold mon dieu furtively masturbating itself the apple of His mammy’s eye I want to share this emptiness with you He says facelessly staring down from the dead screen where the film’s meant to reflect the Promised Land the Perfumed Garden this Wilderness of Failure preferring nothing but a journey without direction & no conclusion & that disillusioned voice punctuating your thoughts when the light faded it says I went in search of myself there were many paths & many destinations one instant opening to another suddenly & with no apparent connection the stigmata confusing them or else she’d already gone on ahead turning pages like somebody who’s forgotten about the words & has begun to move unconsciously among their meanings a lucidity hidden in the void a spectre you want to call out to there where she’s already begun to vanish passing through a locked door but like the doors in dreams it has no handle as if to say there was an indecency which took shape in her & which held her at bay le sacrifice le fidèle turning as upon an instrument of torment & thus she dies while watching herself die one increment at a time one death one petite morte at a time towards the insurmountable paradox she’s been secretly making love to all her life in consummated incest every one of her countless doppelgängers past & to come like literally dispassionate Persinettes Petrosinellas Rapunzels casting their divided mind out the window at the fairytale landscape while Allah sits there at His machine writing them in place of her in the persona of whatever available Jeune Vierge autosodomisée par les cornes de sa proper chasteté & wouldn’t she’ve preferred a quiet picnic down by the rosebushes by the burbling brook in a springtime bower Ô of course she said yes unconsciously adhering to a belief in the principle of interchangeability but that wasn’t really her those fragments notes treacherous insights on the way to some occasion some grotesque speculum of selfknowledge the consoling illusions of an Ultimate Rationale an Idea standing for a nullified Thing un vide simultané all that a cynical readership has sought to make her represent at one or another time in History this hovering back & forth between the imagined presence of an absent thing & the material presence of an imaginary absence une absence de mots & une absence de choses a monster with two faces in other words whose meaning pretends to elude you who’ve always understood the principle of rien soutenu par rien or better yet the nothing begotten of nothing of no-thing my sullen Cordelia like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea let us hasten to the appointed time that permits us to rejoin ourselves do you understand my life & my death don’t belong to me cet monstre à deux faces who never ceases to charm with its vile delusions of happiness Ô for so long I’ve wanted to run away to go off into the mountains in the most profound depths of my darkness to piss in the darkness to howl in the darkness among the women of my blood to be naked at the rendezvous in the forest in a rented room on the Avenue Mohammed V in a cage in the Jemaa el-Fnaa surrounded by toothless crones obscenely caressing the mouths of glass jars lubricated with spit a persistent circular motion of fingers agitating the air into a squalling moan first it vibrates within the ear then penetrates the entire body rising to a pitch of unbearable arousal a punishment centred entirely in the ritual of anticipation the storm that never breaks the strictures of a connotation that’s only ever intrinsic & such was she created to suffer in endless public displays of humiliation like a bitch squatting in its oestrus merely thinking it leaves her breathless is this what you open your eyes for just to be able to stare into the blackhole of non je n’ai pas envie de ma mère I’m born more than once & die more than once whenever a poet imagines a faint rustling in the intestines & pictures autumn leaves in a landscape that’s never seen spring well forty-thousand years is a long enough time to call half of human memory but still it knows nothing of the sea that particular sea which lay in virile freedom where now I lie in the painted cave of a body others have made in spirit only buffalo-head antelope acacia solar-disc my feet in Tazzarine my heart in Djebel Amour but Ô my love it’s only disorder that wakes us the storm in the desert the sky aflame with the aurora of the Sahrawiya & now it rains salt gold slaves now the seed of Beni Hassān now fax machines landmines passenger jets broken ceasefires civilisation is when you know your rights & are conscious of your duties & if I’ve followed one by one all the steps of the route chosen neurotically going back to the start every time a doubt or suspicion directed me there in other words I haven’t been allowed I haven’t allowed myself to arrive at a single conclusion without having retraced all the thoughts that preceded it but is that even possible chance when I seek it’s beyond my reach I could’ve said it escapes me but it’s not from me that it escapes since I’ve never had it in my grasp & at the same time something resembling a memory-breakdown sets in I begin to be afraid of forgetting as though unless I made a note of everything I’d be unable to hold onto any part of it all these extraneous elements which are nothing more perhaps than elaborate arrangements of planes & facets & simultaneous aspects if only to project a sense of volume in space something tangible enough to frame a presence independent of impressions something beyond the dark codecs of Allah’s pixel-eye seeing inward & outward simultaneously & from every conceivable angle but such deep complicity can’t be expressed in words or else it’s all that can be expressed in words & our intentions are merely a way of saying that these things don’t belong to us lost inside the image-duplicator all her past selves lined up along the windowsill to watch her undress stroke herself penetrate herself to a dreary anticlimax how long had she been unconscious it’s necessary they said to know the history of your history & not merely the too clear pain of sentimental love but such a thing remained cruelly distant cut-off frozen remote like rival circumstances fleeing from a mirror I turn & look & see myself lying there paralysed in robotic sleep limbs swaying above the prone image I realise with the unnerving clarity of intuition that this is the dreaded Somatic Cauteriser programmed to negate every one of my thoughts even this one & suddenly something was coming out of my throat a refracted shockwave a quote-unquote inhuman sound according to Allah’s account but those who write always imagine they know the process first you disinfect the immediate area then calmly make an incision she could see His hands like the hands of a surgeon a pianist practicing scales up & down her exposed thorax Ô she’d make a flute out of his bones when He died & then see how He liked it the quickening pulse in the groin the white light in the brain thinking it was just a matter of floating up to the Pearly Gates & ringing the doorbell but in the meantime she’d just have to revenge herself on the bits she could clearly remember driving through El Moukef in the back seat of a taxi streets of bleached red dust wiping the sweat from her forehead she hadn’t slept for too many days outside everything blurred erupting like celluloid a child with pustules covering its face thrust a bag of rotten oranges at the window salt tears wound the child’s blinded eyes this day at last to be delivered inshallah but she was afraid of homelessness every time she dreamed of fucking Him being alone in the city without walls without windows naked in the street the glare staring back through a fume of haemorrhaged faces mouths mouthing pity never helped the dead over & over & telling herself it’s not me they’re talking about it’s not the Lamb of Allah who was slain faites revenir la viande d’agneau dans le beurre & l’huile assaisonnez avec les épices couvrez d’eau & laissez mijoter à feu doux la viande doit rissoler dans son jus en fin de cuisson white as always symbolising purity of intent all those earnest directives to love & cherish the proverbial we who somehow are never required to bear the proverbial brunt there’re always others to suffer in place of us to affirm their touching allegiance to socalled reality like a golem’s placenta buried beneath a pomegranate tree the future’s always been alien but they expect us to get all teary-eyed about the past talking & forever talking about their clear analysis of the situation as naked as a billboard on the Boulevard el Mansour you’d’ve thought to hear it that a single prophylactic was tantamount to the whole nation’s reproductive industry going out on strike & wasn’t everybody’s adolescence populated by nightmares of witchdoctors with wire coathangers chasing them through the medina of course they felt the whole world owed them something a martyr’s paradise one two three steps into the emptiness but when I’m dead & turned to bugshit who’ll play the scapegoat mes camarades mes soeurs expecting it for free & not gold frankincense myrrh lying there with your knees pressed against your forehead waiting for it to be over & done with the Doorway of Life she’d said unsmiling at Him how could she joke at a time like this as if just to exist she had to constantly explain herself answering when called standing to attention embodying an inventory of only generalised items despite a pretence to singularity M being for molecular migraine monstrous malady morbid for example the way when Allah unable to decide on an appellation for this ill-starred puppet simply wrote M on the back of her neck as in Madiha Maessa Mahasine Majda Maliha Maounia Mariem Menna Méret Milouda Morjana Mouina Mounira or any of the other preconscious harem he’d manifested out of His munificence the signified mystery of the feminine marasmus no less a starved wavering geometry hunched over a bathtub with a bloodied Gillette turning itself into a slaughterhouse a travesty with all the consistency of ground kofta oozing between strange fingers to be moulded & marinated & threaded on an ornamental skewer & every time she smelt the smell of cooked meat wafting up from the street vendors it made her want to puke the fat pooling in the gutter the gorged mouths juice spilling from chins their keen tongues could taste her lying up there in her room in the fetid heat of herself serenaded by the flies let the dead eat the dead she cried but Allah couldn’t hear her over the whirr of tyres the taxi changing down through its gears as it climbed as it descended leaning with her face half-buried in the brown upholstery an engorged blowfly on the window watching with its horrible eyes it wasn’t enough to be eaten alive now they had to lay their eggs in her the fly-eyed imams of Mouassine surveying the traffic with their oiled beards combed & perfumed flaunting themselves along the café terraces reservé pour les hommes on their chairs spread-kneed under female djellabas their hookahs & tongues up each others’ arses allons enfants you have your slender little penises to tend for your admiring mothers the maître d’ with a tattoo beneath one eye like anthracite you’d need a heart of stone to accept the money of men every hour of the day staring at a twisted thumbnail at the mole inside the crook of her thumb her naked shoulderblade against the rough seatcover daylight between red roofs the sky too hidden why am I taking so much time it’s the wheels’ fault she can’t keep her mind on what she’s thinking the drone & heave the building to a climax & breaking off a woman’s supposed to go mad punctually not by anachronism but what could she say for herself with Him sitting there beside her in front of her behind her with His girlish fingers pressing the buttons of His cosmic controlboard massaging the keys twitching the wires playing her like a marionette M did this M thought that M bore her puny soul for anyone to read for anyone to perv at like a spread centrefold with its gloss thumbed off a paralysed hopeless thing with a hole where the lepidopterist’s pin jostles her intestines Ô my dear being fucked by Allah must be a fulltime occupation doth she protest at being thus honoured above all women to be the receptacle of His rapture moaning into her pillow that her bleeding heart isn’t just some petrified piece of History for tourists to come & gawk at the jutting minarets & the mountains surrounding it the garish souks the snake-charmers acrobats potion-peddlers the swirling of kebab smoke between her thighs holds the promise of incomparable sensations & exotic North African charm but these emotions are descriptive not logical at times she imagines herself changing place with Him becoming Allah a contractual arrangement she whips Him five times a day He cooks & cleans her soiled underwear she wonders how Eve didn’t croak of boredom day-one & decides it was revenge booking her ticket out of Papa’s playroom when He came in that day & found Little Brother with a mouthful of custard apple takdim watikat al-istiqlal they shouted & now they too were free to walk among the dead as other men are in fraternal suffrage their ingenuous circles of hell their harems their serenading pricks & in her eyes the mullahs were dancing waving their painted cardboard signs BELIEF IS THE OPIATE OF THE UNEQUAL inshallah we are all solemn promises they sing but in the crowded room she can barely hear them she’s trying to push her way to the door to get to the Gare de M________ on time for the last train for the only way back but when finally she reached the station platform a woman stepped in front of her & instead of moving to the side she allowed her body to come into contact upsetting her balance & when she touches her she resents her because her touch is cold it reminds her of her betrayals because even compassion etc the cruelty of it the falseness of it like glass this woman who’s really her like all the other women she’s desired but in front of an audience she finds it impossible to suspend her own disbelief I know that you’re words I know that you’re reading me the station windows in which the platform folds back in reverse like a folio with stage-directions crammed into the margins between every line undoing the dialogue to the point of becoming it strophe antistrophe one foot up one foot momentarily down in empathy alternating with aversion alike in the eyes of a keen observer to a sadistic metronome her arm slicing the air left-to-right as she falls to the ground in a panicked & exaggerated movement producing an effect of isolated melodrama in the midst of an opera the swirling chorus & stagehands & the rebellious orchestra climbing over the audience to reach the exit in a lockstep of spasmodic passion & lo the sea of swaying bovine faces parted & she saw her debilitation lying there in ceremony like a simple script-note wreathed in miniscule shorthand explaining that it’s in the nature of an object to excite feelings of horror anger fear despair expressed by an audible grinding of teeth a raised eyebrow a wrinkled forehead lips pressed firmly especially in the middle a kind of smile of clenched indignation between jaws of disdain thus is a single action midwife to multitudes telling them it wasn’t me but still they clamoured for life for breath for His fatherly attention for their thirst to be slaked for the hand that feeds The Gracious The Merciful yes but an unstable mind’s an evil thing in a moment she’ll be begging Him Ô daddy I’ve changed please don’t be frowny daddy take me with you & He a prisoner trapped between the walls of her accusatory look mumbling incoherently now that the audience has joined in demanding its pound of flesh a raised hand in the spotlight & something glinting in it the programme indicates here that the head of the animal is first aligned with the Qiblah & slaughtered fast upon utterance of the Bismillah its blood drained like an unresolved sentence no sooner written than groping automatically for the backspace to exe the whole thing out the simplest thing of course would be to just make her disappear if such a thing could be gotten away with & not have to delete her one line at a time M then N V I then nothing a blank paperspace but such things are almost always gotten away with like a rote accumulation of erased lost vitiated Time pushing against the edges of the page catastrophe antistrophe filling the emptiness of that absurd mise en scène like an understudy in the wings diligently rehearsing other sentiments than her own always saying what she’s made to say tormented by the stupidities of others their words entering her body taking possession of it so that she can neither see nor think falling to the floor & crawling fishbellied on the muddy linoleum face smeared with dirt Ô you who believe do not go near prayer when you are intoxicated till you know well what you say or if you have touched woman & can’t find water to bathe betake yourself of pure earth & wipe your face your hands surely Allah is forgiving but at the last minute He stretches out His hands to stop her from falling a reflex or an afterthought but never soon enough the faces crowding ever-closer on the platform & trains rushing past out of conjured darkness shuddering stripping back the air & the downwards motion of her body caught frame-by-frame torquing against the light how cinematic death was when it wasn’t real with its culpa meas stuck in its throat but you’d be an idiot to talk like that when in real-life people just stand there laughing or shitting themselves or cringing like some diva with a urinary tract infection stopping the camera at the exact moment her head struck the concrete with her eyes staring straight back at Him jarred suddenly out of focus as if it would’ve made any appreciable difference reaching that turning point one day or any other day with a note written out & folded in her pocket taking one last look in the mirror before slipping outside & finding a taxi to take her to the train station checking the timetable before walking across the crowded platform to stand at the furthest point & wait for the next train so she could step in front of it but what if she didn’t & instead of sneaking out of the hotel room took the key out of the lock & calmly stripped off her clothes & lay down again beside that other & closed her eyes again would she allow herself to be overcome by so little pain I’m cold she stammered I’m shaking lifting her hand to her face with the gesture of a marionette I can’t stop shaking she pressed her languishing eyes with her knuckles & rocked the weight of her body back & forth on the edge of the bed & there were moments hours sometimes days when she’d stand by the window compulsively snatching the curtain back & staring into the street to catch her secret adversaries in flagrante delicto & they indefatigably obliging her with their presence a constant flow a moveable feast of kufis taqiyahs tarbooshes of burnouses djellabas gandoras of calloused feet sandals babouches dragging through fetid cesspools rivers of grey mud as putrid as their masterful sperm their embarrassed fishpaste five-times-a-day polishing their foreheads with it their fat raisins their sultanas at the same time she lulls them into a state of unsuspecting desire & while they’re secretly fucking her in their minds she imagines them dead like wingless birds teetering over involuntary terrains bleakly absurd looking down onto the street nothing more than a glance an instant of recognition to cancel the oppressive weight of the night sometimes I don’t know if I want to live or die sometimes it’s painful not to die haha if only at last to be done with words to be able to resolve everything into a single continuous niente like a rope thrown to a drowning man like flowerless stems hanging in a glass bowl on the windowsill car il y a tant de choses que je n’ose te dire tant de chose que tu ne me laisserais pas dire now their shadows rise & fall & lie flat where the sun touches on the leaf-coloured water now a figure stirs in the bed & the room separates into light & solid planes & things unhinge from nowhere

Louis Armand is the author of novels including The Combinations (2016), Cairo (2014), & Breakfast at Midnight (2012). In addition he has published a number of collections of poetry & theoretical works. He lives in Prague.

Image: Macro of papaver rhoeasTakashi Hosohima, Creative Commons