Far and wide I have travelled Through the Gateless Gate of the Jade Courtyard Bounded the wooden stairs two by two Discovering within this sparse hotel room A place as serene as a walled garden Because waiting here for me I find you And what species of flowers will bloom As I stroke the lock of the Vermillion Gate So I beg of you, don’t open the blinds.
I touch your skin with a hope of palpating your heart
To cause an excitation within your mind that travels
Down and around towards the tenderest target zones
Leading to an exultation that abolishes all barriers
Just for a moment a confusion reigns as to where I stop
And when do you start to begin once more again
Ever constricting circles nearing the vanishing still point
The ever eluding aim the shimmering illusionary goal
Of my hesitant groping then more assured stroking
As you strain to reach those regions unknown to me
Still I long for and hasten your complete surrender
Emptied and spent experience blank devasted serenity
I touch your skin unsure whether this repetition is a curse
Or some form of blessing preceding a final absolution
Lee Miller-Man Ray 1929
Robert Desnos was in many ways the archetypal surrealist spirit. Involved in Paris Dada he was in the literary vanguard of Surrealism and possessed an extra-ordinary talent for automatic writing during the Trance Period, rivalled only by Rene Crevel. Desnos, like many others, fell out with Andre Breton and joined the group centred around Georges Bataille and his magazine Documents and he was one of the signers of the anti-Breton polemic Un Cadavre.
During WWII Desnos was an active member of the French Resistance and he was captured by the Gestapo in 1944. He was deported to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald and finally Theresienstadt where he would die a few weeks after the camp’s liberation from typhoid.
I Have So Often Dreamed Of You
I have so often dreamed of you that you become unreal.
Is it still time enough to reach that living body and to kiss
on that mouth the birth of the voice so dear to me?
I have so often dreamed of you that my arms used as they are
to meet on my breast in embracing your shadow would
perhaps not fit the contour of your body.
And, before the real appearance of what has haunted and ruled
me for days and years, I might become only a shadow.
Oh the weighing of sentiment,
I have so often dreamed of you that there is probably no time
now to waken. I sleep standing, my body exposed to all the
appearances of life and love and you, who alone still
matter to me, I could less easily touch your forehead and
your lips than the first lips and the first forehead I
might meet by chance.
I have so often dreamed of you, walked, spoken, slept with your
phantom that perhaps I can be nothing any longer than a
phantom among phantoms and a hundred times more shadow
than the shadow which walks and will walk joyously over
the sundial of your life.
Translation Mary Ann Caws
Standing amongst the ruins, surveying the damage,
We look out towards the horizon and beyond:
I can sense you keening to tearaway and abscond,
Cross the frontiers of limitations and language,
While I think only of dream homes and suicide;
Neither of which are really an ideal solution,
But possess the terrifying charm of temptation
For surely separate destinies could then coincide:
Picture us speeding through the roaring night,
Drawn irresistibly towards the final destination,
A painted backdrop against a scorching light,
That blazes and burns to the point of desecration,
During these last moments would our love abide
While we to the vast universe vainly confide?
Now where are you at? Where have you gone to?
Now that I’ve need and I’m on the move,
Searching the city streets for a way to prove,
That I’m actually alive and as real as you.
But you know I’ve a thing (among other things)
For all the wayward waifs and straggling strays,
With all their tender brokenhearted ways,
It makes my blood surge and my soul to sing.
If I was to ever find you, run you to ground,
I would whisper in your ear a different story
In a new language, where out is in, up down,
And the darkest hour illuminates with glory,
Never again need we be lost and lonely,
If you promise that it’s all for my eyes only.