Hédi Kaddour

No Rhymes

No ocean, no rhymes, the prudent
mountain, long walks and sometimes
when we thought too highly of ourselves
a huge bovine herd, just before the slap
of Mont Blac, on the far side of a grassy shoulder.
we walked right through. “Don’t be afraid,
they’re only cows.” “I’m telling you,
over there, no, on the right, there’s one
with balls, where…” “Speed up,
she’s right behind us!” And in the evening,
her panties were tangled with the devil’s in
laughter and the smell of straw, life
danced like a vertigo of stars but
only water never forgets its course
and in the city, after midday, there are
no more cows: she goes by
slowly, that lady, at a distance of years
without recognizing and passes by! While there’s
honking at l’Opéra because a bus driver
is weeping in the gutter; you’re left to quibble
about memories like some excommunicate, plunge
your nose in your Spaten, then
write this right away, what’s left of it
is more fragile than a spider’s house
but you must feel as if any passer-by
could get your table hurled at his jaw.

Spiritual Distress

Damn the almanac-makers who leave you
stuck between debts and death
or a week with seven tomorrows. Today
here’s another gent: History’s convulsions,
monstrous metaphor of our
spiritual distress. Listen to this, distress:
in Burgos, in the Middle Ages, a baker’s son
converted to Christianity, and his father
in a fury, flung him into the oven.
Saint Mary, says the chronicle, saved the son and
the citizens of Burgos burned the father and

don’t wander too far off, distress, and start to giggle
because what comes next is a riddle: my first is
a convoy of Jews sent to Auschwitz by
the Prefecture of the Gironde; my second, a procession
of bullet-bloated Algerians who float
under the Pont Mirabeau; my third the funds
of a national political party in the sixties,
and together they make the proper name of a great
spiritual distress which is certainly not called
Martin Heidegger and don’t get annoyed, what’s annoying
is that all of this should merely be allusion.

The Supermarket

Chocolates, beer, pâté, whiskey,
cookies, she watches them stuff it away
and the girl, already drunk, bright
red, insults her, threatens to sock
her in the face, old bag, they laugh,
they shout Thief! The security guards
come, grab her, the others laugh
harder, she exclaims Not me! It’s them!
The guards frisk, the girl
jumps on her, the guards hit
in the cops hit, there’s more roughing up
in the manager’s office, the guys threaten her, the girl
scratches her, she runs away, the manager follows her
shouting, Lady, you forgot your reward!