Translated by Jonathan William BEATON
¶ So, here we are then.
The public mask broken and swept up like glass into a heap.
Here’s the beginning the preamble eyes closing hesitantly cautiously rousing from sleep.
This is the beginning of the end of the beginning of the end and you’re feeling OK.
The end in plain sight, grotesquely.
It curls up, snoring, into a nice-sounding poem.
Nice hollow words for everyone to enjoy.
To romanticise death is a poisonous act.
The death of a fruit fly is not tragic, it’s hopeless.
The image of the white-beer-sozzled fruit fly winks at me, invites me to charge it with meaning, to employ it in the poet’s own myth, for profit.
I know what I’m doing.
Bidding the day farewell from the quayside, where it’s safe and everyone gets to reach a ridiculously old age.
Mark Baumer was run over by an SUV.
His death is dumb and awful and I feel hatred for the dumb, awful driver of the SUV.
How many Mark Baumers might we lose this year?
I want to build a lighthouse out of the skulls of all the Mark Baumers we lost in 2017.
To lob the blood-red light kilometres into the world.
Burn it into the most sensitive retina, screw shut the economy’s maddest nerve endings.
What is our duty?
Our duty as people is to learn to care for everyone and everything.
What’s so hard about that, really?
Every working day a Mark Baumer hangs himself.
In my dreams I thrust my shoulders under his knees just in time.
In my dreams I feel the hot steel of the SUV buckle around my balled-up fist and Mark is safe.
Crying and afraid, barefoot and wet, but safe.
All the Mark Baumers of the world drift off to sleep contentedly.
What drives this violence?
The short answer: industry.
A longer answer: the protest and the parade are prepared with the same pomp and pageantry.
Another answer: man, like a cast iron heater, should be democratically bled from time to time.
I can only mourn the names I know.
Only the mad know all the names.
The purpose of this poem is linguistic pyromania.
Juvenile, I know, but the author died long before the flame.
What awaits us now?
The reckless violence of consensus.
I see the most beautiful and generationless people, walking the hallways of the art school so beautiful.
Bobbing in a sea of white men, art is born.
The Art that Art dares to be.
Retromania as Art, and vice versa. 03/10/17.
A lot of bodies, few people.
Even fewer artists.
Staying afloat on briefcases full of references.
The embraces of art betrayers.
On my cheek I still feel the Judas kiss of the entrepreneur-artist.
A mark impossible to wipe away.
The fashion on display at the art school is extremely beautiful.
Fashion is the most didactic proof of two-directional traffic between language and reality.
This is an absolute masterpiece!
But it’s no good to me.
Observe everything, admire nothing.
Everything is a tool, everything useful.
Hence too the novel.
Hence too the poem.
Hence too the novelist.
Hence too the poet.
Hence you too.
What awaits us now.
Live young, die slow.
I am the squandered trust!
The self-hatred in the covered logo.
The above and the underground.
The tax collector and the writ.
The horizontal art world.
Seeing everything in a symbolic order and yet carrying on with life.
This is the work of people.
Investing with a familiar face.
Hiring your personal bodyguards.
Taking all the time in the world to shave your legs.
Take care of the folds in the skin of the present, you can’t do without them.
Without Viagra or the pill there’s no porno, and vice versa.
A suicide in the right circles is deadly.
Sorry, I digress.
All my orifices are hungry.
Without these carbon chains nothing has any meaning anymore.
Once you’ve come to distrust their naturalness, of course.
Tomorrow my boss is back and this realisation keeps me up at night.
What will happen next?
Without it there’s no I, but not vice versa.
You’d call this narcissism.
For me it’s the unadulterated joy of existence.
Fuel for this body.
My poor anus was the first social asset to be privatised.
White-plate criminality would make me angrier than I am.
Above all, what I am is tired.
This all costs us a lot of effort and money and effort and money.
Like the mad, they’re after a substance I can’t shake.
The future was not, cannot be cancelled.
It smells like a dangerous prototype.
A validated feeling of success, a certain sense of responsibility, of orders.
The day’s nerve ending is listening for any form of contact.
Anything as long as there is touching.
Is what I want to say.
Labour has always been precarious.
So where did the present get its rust?
What to do when there’s nothing more to be done?
Give the market access to our sleep and watch all our dreams pulse in neon.
Numb the social brain with 24/7 access to itself.
Numb the social brain with the possibility of anxiety, hate and data politics.
Numb it, submit and let go.
2018, alive, still.
2018, floating around in a city full of tired poets.
Tired poets copy the aesthetic of a dark Zeitgeist.
Tired poets without imagination.
The method that survives the work is a dead method.
Different forms of engagement hang side by side on the wall of the exhibition.
The art of riskless thinking.
There’s no fight in middle ground.
Reliable income tenderly smears a salve on my irritated skin cells.
In the meantime evening has fallen, and I’m yearning for the 21st century.
To put it another way: for the 21st century to begin already.
Going to sleep in this permanent now is an autonomous political act, nothing more.
Nor anything less.
Without a fight the I is nothing.
Recently little old me found himself unexpectedly without a transversal expert coach.
What to do?
Usher in the disease, pixel by pixel.
With an ear pressed to the wall.
If only I had an eye for every keyhole, a camera for every shower.
Awakening from collective hallucination, future.
Awakening from numbing horizontalism, future.
Divorcing sleep of dreams, future.
Producing poetry as shareable reverie, future.
Distilling reverie into a head-butt, future.
The distance between thinking and head-butt, future.
Vanishing into the solid certainty of the top-down.
The cadence of the dizzying procession of bosses.
Dreamt about coalitions of coalitions, communities of communities.
Embracing each other in unadulterated agonism.
Filled with hope I skip down the street.
What do I encounter?
An I with room for more.
The only noble function: to move us from place to place.
Dissensus doesn’t need a me.
Calling my name until the syllables flake off.
Forge a hammer from the rubble of collected sounds.
The marble umbilical cord between high street, university and arts centre.
Smash it, smash it, smash it.
My opportunities on the employment market dwindle away until the I doesn’t count.
Believe it or not, I agonised a month over those last 9 lines.
Who will pay me for it?
Again: What does it mean to live in this city tonight?
Thanatology for the cowardly.
The quiet horror of the blunt knife and the throat.
Again: save your spanner.
The reckless violence of con-sen-sus.
Diatribe: the poetry of leisurely self-abasement.
The purpose of this poem is to dethrone other poems.
I see the mechanism but don’t feel the output.
I hear the words spilling out but don’t feel the urgency.
Searching for intimacy between two mirrors.
How much Arno is too much?
Contaminating the fragile language of self-absorption with.
It’s spring 2018 and we’re reading passionate miners’ poetry.
In the United States bodies fill the streets for and against gun violence.
In Poland bodies fill the streets for and against the sanctity of such bodies.
The news informs me promptly of such matters.
The product in my hands whispers her long history to me and I can’t help but giggle to myself.
Why should I understand what’s unfolding here?
Surely that’s what poetry criticism is for.
Surely that’s what the poet-reviewer is for.
Surely that’s what the university is for.
Toddlers learning to walk, what a sick joke.
Hole in the market: ergonomic office chairs for toddlers.
The comfort that your little labourer deserves.
The subsequent phone call to Vitra fits perfectly within this poetic vision.
Sorry, where was I?
It’s Sunday 08/04/18 and I wish work would free me from the weekend.
Limping through a city of able-bodied projects.
The noise, chaos, has no rhythm to it.
Arno Van Vlierberghe is a poet. In 2017 he published Vloekschrift (Diatribe), his debut collection of poetry, which was subsequently nominated for the C. Buddingh-prize for best debut volume of verse. Currently he’s working on Ex-Daemon, of which the above text is a sample. The project in its final form wil span across exactly 101 pages, commemorating the number of days that poet and activist Mark Baumer spent walking barefoot across the U.S. before being fatally struck by an SUV. He lives and works in Ghent, Belgium.
Jonathan Beaton is a writer and a translator of texts from Dutch to English, based in Ghent, Belgium. He specialises in the fields of culture and the arts, working freelance for individual artists, magazine and book publishers, galleries, museums and cultural institutions in Belgium and the Netherlands.