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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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