I mention an image that for some days now has been mounting in the sky of the revolution…Chantal’s image is circulating in the streets. An image that resembles her and does not resemble her. She towers above the battles.

—The Envoy in Jean Genet’s The Balcony

Your lost lover becomes a martyr—
a new revolutionary cause—
as the judge, an abandoned father,
conceives the child’s anarchistic calls.
Balconies crack, begin to falter
while the white rose petals start to fall,
and the soft dust now rises up to
cloud our bishop’s visionary realms.
So you saunter down to the twelfth bar.

It’s not very far for you to go—
down the road to the mausoleum,
where knowledge no longer wants to flow,
and wisdom the police chiefs promised
evaporates in blue cloudiness.
My forlorn lovers take one last look,
executioners seal sacred books,
and we dream that time will return us
again to where Chantal’s dance began.

We slip on ice in larch swamps covered
by fog, which obscures the histories
unfolding Irma’s worn tapestries—
lies of the victors, lies of the lost.
We change the general’s blank dance card,
then drop three photographers’ needles
into a heavily falling snow.
Your martyr turns into a lover—
an evolutionary lost-cause.

An old father begins his judgement
with many anachronistic flaws.
And Carmen’s petals flake slowly off
like snow melting in a beggar’s tale
of the freed slave’s magic midnight sun
where my desire has never failed.
And the rose petals? The bruised petals
from the flowers you took the envoy
cover the gravel under your feet.

At first, people were fighting against illustrious and illusory tyrants, then for freedom. Tomorrow they’ll be ready to die for Chantal alone.

—The Envoy in Jean Genet’s The Balcony


double-life


Note: In each of the two days I have been working on the poem above, the ones just before I am posting it, exactly 18 people visited my blog, where this originally appeared as Chai equals eighteen (things have changed—yesterday 222 people visited, a more usual number since the beginning of 2017). The poem has four stanzas of 9 lines each, for 36 lines (double 18), not counting the epigrams from Genet. Each line has 9 syllables. The total number of syllables is 324, plus the 36 lines, equals 360—the number of degrees in a circle. Chai, חָי —Hebrew for life, equals 18 according to gematria. So, 36 lines, double 18, is double life. Or, perhaps, a double life. Jean Genet‘s The Balcony may offer a key element to this equation.

Double Life has since been published in my chap book, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism (free PDF download). You can also purchase a print copy through locofo chaps.


4 thoughts on “Double Life | Michael Dickel

  1. Interesting numerology in this. I do believe that it’s all connected, within, without, and sometimes we are moved to do things that may seem deliberate on our part and upon later reflection realize that there may have been another, more powerful force behind the whole thing (i.e. does everything happen for a reason?). I haven’t read The Balcony, but your poem seemed a little morbid to me, although still well written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morbid perhaps bc of the way in which revolutionary figures are incorporated by the powerful who shift roles in the structures that remain intact during much political upheaval and “change.” The Balcony takes place in a whore house with a revolution swirling around outside. It shows that the one martyr becomes the co-opted as a symbol of the “new” power structure, which is unchanged from the old, only with people having changed roles within it.

      Liked by 1 person

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