Stanzas on the Death of Guy Debord

      cómo se passa la vida,
      cómo se viene la muerte
      tan callando;
         cúan presto se va el plazer....

             —Jorge Manrique,
                Coplas por la muerte de su padre


wages murder the first caress
resplendent in the portal
salt on my cheek
dry timber set ablaze
each night robbed of all that I love


the photograph in evidence
as many Hitlers as wanted
the lamp the piano the lecture
having replaced the map
wine breast written down


the diagram of the village
constrains one to anguish
the bird flits into the dance
under a Western-movie sky
there's that echo for every shout


we had the dream of water
we didn't come up for air
we could see clearly
you said strip me
you said pull me close


a bitter draft from a broken cup
O countrymen washed tall
naked in sunlight in innocence
reclaimed to the warm embrace
genocidal recurrent thanksgiving


"C'est un homme
ou une pierre
ou un arbre
qui va commencer
le quatrième chant."


from the rubble of information
from the bottom of the raised glass
came this one man speaking
"la belle langue de mon siècle" no more


Guy Debord (1931-1994), filmmaker, writer, and revolutionary, was one of the founders of the Situationist International. He is best known as the author of THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE (1967); his other books include COMMENTS ON THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE (1988) and PANEGYRIC I (1989). Debord made the first French translation of Jorge Manrique's COPLAS POR LA MUERTE DE SU PADRE.

The text of the sixth stanza is taken verbatim from the fourth canto of LES CHANTS DE MALDOROR by Lautréamont, a favorite writer of Debord's.

The penultimate line of the seventh stanza is from Debord's MÉMOIRES (1958), the last line of which reads: "Je voulais parler la belle langue de mon siècle." In his collage text, this was the only line that Debord himself authored.

"Stanzas on the Death of Guy Debord" originally appeared in RealPoetik (1996).

James Brook | Mudlark No. 18
Contents | Tune of Wreckage