vendredi 27 mars 2009

House on Fire

Pour Alain Bashung qui m'en faisait envie¹

My favorite singer and songwriter of all time and the person I often called "le deuxième homme de ma vie", Alain Bashung, died Saturday, March 14, 2009, in Paris. One week later, I scrawled out this poem "House on Fire"; the theme was mixed up with things I had been angry about, Alain's death being #1, but also my own sickness and pain and NOT being in Paris (where i belonged, of course). It was a short-lived depression; things settled down once more, and I went back to work on the poem a week later, bound and determined to honor this great poet and the struggle he had fought valliantly for six years with cancer. After five hours of writing, mentally exhausted, I listened to Alain's music for the first time since he had died; I hadn't even realized that I'd been avoiding it. Wrestling with this poem and with his beautiful music streaming into my ears, I suddenly realized the full loss of him and could finally cry out with tears of grief.

Three weeks before Alain Bashung died, he was honored with three French Grammies, Victoires de la Musique, for best concert, best male performer, and best album of the year, and the distinction of garnering more Victoires than any other musician before him. He was physically weak that night but he performed splendidly, and received several long standing ovations. His fans were all so happy for him; he deserved every accolade. Although he had been in chemo and radiation therapy all year long, he never stopped touring until the final two weeks... at 61, he took the stage unabashedly, without hair and eyebrows with his signature hats and dark glasses; and in spite of the cancer, he never lost his beautiful voice, as I describe it, of velvet and bone. I was fortunate to see him again in May 2008 in Lyon, knowing then it would be the last time I would see him alive; I was awed by his energy and courage.

Alain leaves his beautiful wife Chloé Mons , their 3-yr old daughter, a 17-year-son, and thousands of fans who grew up and old with him. And I, the late-coming American in 2002, was forever changed by him for the good. Merci à jamais, Alain. Your music has made you immortal; it's just this damned body that got in the way.

"Etre mort, c'est une chose, mais continuer à mourir..." ~A.B.

This house is on fire
I'm getting out
while I still can
Ice is melting
off the ceiling
Floorboards crackle
beneath my feet, like
Sacagawea, I'm a
guiding light, seeking
freedom from the
burning bush and
I'm in a rush
a big rush, I'm
arrhythmic, reactionary
and drugged
aware of nothing
but my pulse, my pulse
the fastest flames
flicking at my nightshirt
heat on my skin and
that impulse to live
in spite of everything

This house is on fire
I must get out
before it's too late
before my dreams are
vanquished, every
memory overcome by
pain and murder
and there's nothing left
but my ignorance
for this life i've
freely given, that
infinite life of ours
where everyone lives
100 years and
there is time to
realize one's raison d'être
or cross oceans, like
a pioneer, I've survived
savage attacks, I've fought
back and slackened when
things got safe
I'm human

The house is on fire and
I've lived so many times, there
are no more reprisals, I've
done my penance, I've
boiled the onion, I've
stocked the shelves
with my earthly
goods, I've raised
children, buried
spouses, loved
men and women, I've
given up the ghosts
of the past except
those that clung like
sublimation, but my
body broke, so I
took my pills like
a good man before God
and a few too
many doctors who
thought they were
Still they tried to exorcise
the demon cancer and
I must thank them

Now our abode is
burning to the ground
and with it mon corps
and my only thought
is get out, get out!
And yet I feel guilt, that
sixth sense that blesses
my oriental spirit
that failure of logic from
trauma after trauma
and analysis I've never
done when danger
came crashing through
the proverbial door

Don't you see,
my darlingmost?
I was born with
this birthmark
on my breast, and I
must confess, I probably
deserved it because
I've toyed with life and
sometimes lied, mostly
to myself, but now the
fire is setting off every
alarm on every floor
and I'm anxious for
a reason, I must
protect myself, I must
prendre place
There is not enough
air left, not enough
blood, I'm running out
of layers of onion
I'm down to nothing
but fire, ice and
a compulsion to run
with love, with love
to rescue myself
from the tyranny of
the kill, it's setting fires
all over the world
burning the earth
dive-bombing the poor
and the s.o.b.'s
have no conscience

In these days of ours
death has become arsonist
and I his next victim
but not down with
this house, this fire trap
this insignificance
I feel as I await the
the grim reaper
He will come one day
cigarette in his hand
sickness in his eyes
the blue white and red
cradling the sky
and blazing from his head
an enormous bonfire
and it's all
the sweetest nonsense
my dreams spun by
fairy spiders, my nightmares
over, my body restored
to its former glory
and my love, my life
my France on approach
like l'aube for Rimbaud
or the voice of Bashung
et moi libre, libre

¹An allusion to Bashung's song "Faisons envie" which
kept me alive more times than I care to say