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Gangrene Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 10

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Vous êtes sorti sain et sauf des basses
calomnies, vous avey conquis les coeurs.

Zola, J'accuse

One was kicked in the stomach
until he vomited, then
    made to put back
into his mouth what they had
brought forth; when he tried to drown
    in his own stew
he was recovered. "You are
worse than a nigger or Jew,"

the helmeted one said. "You
are an intellectal.
    I hate your brown
skin; it makes me sick." The tall
intense one, his penis wired,
    was shocked out of
his senses in three seconds.
Weakened, he watched them install

another battery in
the crude electric device.
    The genitals
of a third were beaten with
a short wooden ruler: "Reach
    for your black balls.
I'll show you how to make love."
When two of the beaten passed

in the hall they did not know
each other. "His face had turned
    into a wound:
the nose was gone, the eyes ground
so far back into the face
    they too seemed gone,
the lips, puffed pieces of cracked
blood." None of them was asked

anything. The clerks, the police,
the booted ones, seemed content
    to inflict pain,
to make, they said, each instant
memorable and exquisite,
    reform the brain
through the senses. "Kiss my boot
and learn the taste of French shit."

Reader, does the heart demand
that you bend to the live wound
    as you would bend
to the familiar body
of your beloved, to kiss
    the green flower
which blooms always from the ground
human and ripe with terror,

to face with love what we have
made of hatred? We must live
    with what we are,
you say, is enough. I
taste death. I am among you
    and I accuse
you where, secretly thrilled by
the circus of excrement,

you study my strophes or
yawn into the evening air,
    tired, not amused.
Remember what you have said
when from your pacific dream
    you awaken
at last, deafened by the scream
of your own stench. You are dead.


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