The Fire Sermon

Part three of a series “covering” T. S. Eliot’s most famous poem [German translation by Paul Celan (1947)] Herr Hitler Himmler, the two-backed, two-faced beast, hissing ss-ss-ss-ss-ss, gives birth to …

Part three of a series “covering” T. S. Eliot’s most famous poem

[German translation by Paul Celan (1947)]

Herr Hitler Himmler, the two-backed, two-faced beast,
hissing ss-ss-ss-ss-ss,
gives birth to skeletons
amid charcoal-soil, smoke-cribs.

His photos show burnt-faces, charred-faces,
fish-mouths thirsty,
hooked by a snagging fist, a gagging blade,
or spot babies stuffed down toilets.

Nymphs exit the boudoir, but dying,
slutted, slit open.

The word-smog shrouding Hitler Himmler—
the positive poison, the negating air—
a tyranny of laughing gas—
the comedy of the “dirty, cankered horde”

(sweet Baltic Sea, flow softly, till I end my song)—

provokes scissor-torn penises, wrenched off limbs,
bayoneted breasts, stabbed-through-belly fetuses,
flesh gone plastic with rot, bubbling with maggots,
under the Third Reich Big Top,

where fat thumbs push out Jews’ eyes,
pudgy fingers bring our throats to vomit
or we’re sawn in half by clown-masked butchers
or bullets crackle like skulls breaking open.

Nymphs exit the boudoir, but dying,
slutted, slit open, to glut humungous rats . . . .

By the waters of the Black Sea, I sat down and wept.
Only Grief is trusty here.

(Each bullet dashes slick as water,
gashes keen as an axe.)

Hear the grisly bragging of smokestacks:
“I’ve devoured a poet, a rabbi, a probable Nobel laureate”;
“I’ve heaped ash in a musician’s throat.”
The furnaces gorge, belch, glut, and bolt.

(Sweet North Sea, flow softly, till I end my song)—

The wedding ceremonies of knives and raw meat
eat up nights, wherein searchlights sledgehammer eyes,
would-be escapees whimper, get hacked-to-death.
Tomorrow’s headlines=bloodlines blotted out.

Scheming darlings push corpse-stuffed wheelbarrows
to the furnaces, but first hatchet open faces
to get at teeth, the gold and silver in a jawbone,
to bank on this biting glitter.

(Sweet Mediterranean, flow softly, till I end my song)—

The smell of the industrious smokestacks!
Each belch is another person
come to ash.

So that an entire, European map—
gets put to the torch . . . .

So, thousands, millions, got processed—
to be able to sift through
needles’ eyes . . . .

(We Jewry above all—
melted down like precious-metal jewellery,
in a disposal as liquid as gold . . . .)

Physicists are gutted,
their bellies made rugs;
brains light up as lampshades.

Fillings get torn from teeth
to gold-back buzz-bombs;
fat is scooped up for soap.

Railroads lug wigs, crutches, brandy
bottles, suitcases, eyeglasses, prosthetic
limbs, false teeth, cutlery, crockery,

gold rings, gold earrings, gold necklaces,
to “Canada,” that warehouse of loot.
Bones ship to Strasbourg’s Institute of Human Anatomy.

See a volcano of baby shoes
and toddler clothes,
a landslide of brushes,

and piles of shoe polish tins,
tobacco tins, GIFTGAS!
tins of the poison, a ton . . . .

So bad’s the Butchery, the colour red
mutinies against itself,
preferring black.

So, at my whipped back, the nattering
I hear, is a machine-gun, chattering.

Later, guards sprawl nude as unsheathed daggers;
beauties get mishmashed as gristle, bone, ash—
or chained ankles or roped wrists:
Anyone easily raped.

“Tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet
Jug jug jug jug jug jug jug jug
Jugular veins sweet
Chug chug chug chug chug chug chug”

Such screams crept by me upon the waters.

Unreal History=

To whit:

“Tituba” the Salem, Massachusetts, Negroid “witch” alleged—
circa 1692—

“Puritans terrify cos they’re so flinty—
as narrow as knives:
Their scriptures gotta be inked
in bloody pigments . . . .

“To them, the Crucifix itself is Witchery,
and so their cannons fire,
Redskins die,
and corn is set ablaze.

“These white boys take negresses
relentlessly, back of flour mill
or wine press, or church (of course),
to suss out virgins and pump their cunts.

“The decorative phalloi show blood-embellished inches
winching out a wench’s
‘conspiratorially gnawing sex,’ or plunging therein
like nails thudding into blessèd Corpus Christi . . . .

“I know the body is incorrigibly animal—
nimbly and biblically animal.
So, colonial Political Science
is fleshed-out, diabolical scenes

“mimicking Milton’s Paradise Lost . . . .
The Governor’s administration
unfolds endless cyclones of Scandal;
yet, only “fallen” gals fall from gallows.

“About us ‘witches’? I’m happy
with our fates. No innuendo.
I accept that your entire canon
of Law derives from Devilry.

“Thou covetous liars accuse each other
of conducting death-penalty adulteries,
so as to plunder ungodly riches,
all because a lover, fondling,

“drags down fond lover.
But this Adam-and-Eve Crime
is hardly Witchery. Nevertheless,
lacustrine flesh quick turns latrine-black with flies.

“That one man throttles, mauls, another,
to steal his Treasury
or that the State
conspires to sever tender necks—

“to wrench lads from ladies—
is just average Savagery.
But know that you’re also bound for dust.
And a thousand wastes is every Crusade.”

Hi de ho.

To Cernăuţi then I came

Helpless helpless helpless helpless
before History, mortified by History . . . .

O Lord, what is the soundest prayer?
Skin—like paper—has ascended as incense.

So many have been undone by burning.
So much has been undone by burning.
I had not thought that burning had undone
cathedral, synagogue, mosque, and temple.

A cauldron of unholy Oppressors howls still
all about our ears.

The Good News?
None of the martyrs outlived Love.
            Weialala leia
            Wallala leialala

[Oswiecim (Poland) 12 mai mmxv
& Krakow (Poland) 13 mai mmxv
& Halifax (Nova Scotia) 23 mai mmxv
& Aeropuerto Barcelona—BCN (Spain) 16 juillet mmxv
& Escaldes-Engordany (Andorra) 18 & 19 juillet mmxv
& Smiths Cove (Nova Scotia) 19 août mmxv]

The Walrus’ Waste Land cover band has assembled to reinterpret T. S. Eliot’s most famous poem featuring the best line for thinking about National Poetry Month: “April is the cruelest month.”

George Elliott Clarke
George Elliott Clarke teaches English literature at the University of Toronto.