Image - 'Defeated by the mosquito and abandoned to the jungle' from The National Geographic Magazine, February 1922

 

This marble punch was a snowball,
And it starred his heart
And it starred the victor’s jacket,
Starred the black victor whom nothing protects.

Stupefied he stood
Barelegged in the lair of solitude,
Beneath the gilded walnuts, mistletoe and holly,
Starred over like the blackboard in the classroom.

Often this begins at school,
These punches that fill the mouth with blood
These hard snowball punches,
That beauty jabs at the heart in passing by.

Saint-Cloud, February, 1929.

When I hear one of these phrases I close my eyes, I see again the boys’ berths on board the X., one of the largest steamers on the Marseilles-Saigon line. The X was waiting to get under way. The purser, one of my opium-smoking friends, had suggested the escapade to me. At eleven o’clock at night we crossed the deserted docks and climbed up the ladder on to the deck. We had to follow our guide at full speed and avoid the watch. We climbed over cables, worked round columns and Greek temples, crossed public squares, labyrinths of machines, shadow and moonlight, we mixed up the companion ways and the corridors so much and so well that our poor guide began to lose his head, until, softly, that powerful strange smell put us on the right path.

Imagine enormous berths, four or five dormitories, where sixty ‘boys’ lay smoking on two tiers of planks. In each dormitory a long table filled up the empty space. Standing on these tables, and cut in two by a flat, unmoving cloud half-way up the room, the latecomers were undressing, tying up the cords where they liked to hang up their washing, and gently rubbing their shoulders.

The scene was lit by the dim lights pf the lamps, and on top of them burnt the spluttering drug. The bodies were wedged against each other and without causing the slightest surprise, or the slightest ungraciousness, we took our places where there was really no place left, with our legs doubled up and our heads resting on stools. The noise we made did not even disturb one of the boys who was sleeping with his head against mine. A nightmare convulsed him; he had sunk to the bottom of the sleep that stifled him, entering into him through his mouth, his large nostrils and the ears which stuck out from his head. His swollen face was closed like an angry fist, he sweated, turned over and tore at his silken rags. He looked as though a stroke of the lancet would deliver him and bring forth the nightmare. His grimaces formed an extraordinary contrast with the calm of the others, a vegetable calm, a calm which reminded me of something familiar. What was it? On those planks lay the twisted bodies in which the skeletons, visible through the pale skin, were no more than the delicate armatures of a dream . . . In fact, it was the olive trees of Provence which those young sleepers evoked in me, the twisted olive trees on the flat red earth, their silver clouds hanging in the air.

In that place I could almost believe that it was all this profound lightness that alone kept this most monumental ship floating on the water.

Jean Cocteau, “Opium, The Diary of his Cure,” 1930

Jim’s Intro : You, Appearing – M83 : Sunset (The Death of Thumbellina) – Current 93 : Girlfriend’s Interlude : Past, present and future – The Shangri-Las : We Ask You To Ride – Wooden Shjips : Yellow Elevator #2 – The Black Angels : Striking a match : Purple Haze – Dion : Vibrating Ruler : Can I get it from You – Dave Berry : Omens And Portents I, The Driver – Earth : Lauren at the beach : Prepare for the End – David Thomas and Two Pale Boys : Pammie’s On a Bummer – Sonny Bono : Alone, Jealous & Stoned – The Secret Machines : Car Chase terror! – M83 : Rain on 22nd July 06 : Orange Country Suite, a Paris bootleg – Jim Morrison – 71 Mins

Image – ‘Defeated by the mosquito and abandoned to the jungle‘ from The National Geographic Magazine, February 1922

Advertisements