Monday, October 20, 2003

A choke poem from Kent Johnson [revised].

I was having dinner with Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters, and the Count of Lautreamont. Some other minor poets of the pre-war years were there. Lautreamont was dead, of course, and his boiled body was being served in thin slices stuffed into baguettes the shape of milkweed pods. Everything was going famously, Picabia was making Vvvvv sounds, holding the severed wheel of his crashed Belogna; Ball was flapping his papier-mache wings at top velocity; and Man Ray’s three girlfriends, with their pointed, penitent hoods, were drinking absinthe and whispering mysteriously near the lime tree. Then it happened that Breton gave his ten year old, bowl-cutted son, Aragon, a slice of the Count’s perfectly shaped derriere. The child swallowed and immediately commenced to gag and retch, his little hands going to his throat, like the hands of a shot head of state, and he turned violet throughout the whole area of his body. Nadja began to scream, and Breton began to shout, though not words, but primal commands. The sounds coming from the child were those of crows, or something else I cannot yet name. In this moment of crisis, I didn’t choke, nosiree, I did not: I sprinted over and performed the maneuver I had brought with me from the future, the Heimlich, as it is known, wrapping my arms around the little Stalinist brat and squeezing and lifting his rib cage with all my might in five rapid successions. It worked. There on the parquet floor, ejected and writhing, covered in a film of slime, was a baby shark. "How on earth did that get into him?" cried Lacan. "I don’t know, but I could give a shit," said Gertrude Stein. "Pass the butter."

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