Giving Birth to the World

by Sam Rasnake



            — after Agnès Varda


Inside every person is a landscape

of highways, the sea, old apartments,

abandoned houses, sidewalk cafes,

trees standing against the winter blue

of hopeless skies. Life's a contradiction.

There's a thin hope, a dream — then

we're swallowed by a this is what

I want kind of living. And we know

nothing but now — There's a path

we follow, and though we pass opening

after opening, we never leave the trail,

following it beyond the thinned edge

of everything we see — and disappear.





            — after Chantal Akerman


“Today is a large canvas,” Mother would

say. Many faces look out at me — but it's

a stranger who has been living my life.

That seems an awkward shift, but I've

only known exile. Life inside a box.

Yet, I must have doors and hallways —

and real time passing through my body.

It's all fragmented, but the broken bits

I piece together into something whole,

recognizable, finished. At least to myself.

It's my self-portrait. I title it Chantal.

I can see the end. I always could,

even if no one else could see it. 





            “In the time before…”

            — from Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor


When the ex-legionnaire dances at the end of

Denis's Beau travail, the moment is electric —

a barrage of energy, a dance for his life, maybe,

or death — breaking free — the first real moment

the man has ever had — in tune with the planet,

in tune with his body, his weakness, his deepest

sins — and fear, most of all — nothing matters but

the dance, and he's consumed by it — so when he

vanishes, mid-song, down the stairs leading to

a hot Djibouti night, we know the future past — or

think we do: in Marseille, he made his bed, he lay

down — his gun and guilt and whispers — a vein

throbbed in his arm. Someone is always watching.


            — after Claire Denis