Friday, November 30, 2012

My King, by Henri Michaux

Poet as Outsider, this Michaux fella was. He described himself as a "maladjusted rebel." Allen Ginsberg called him a "master" and "genius".  Also a fellow world traveler among us drifters and wonderers. He traveled, "to drive his country out of him, his attachments of all kinds and whatever elements of Greek or Roman culture or Belgian habits have become attached to him. He travels against." Here's a cool poetry blog for more on his life. And here's one of the most exquisite poems of rebellion I've ever read posted below. 
Happy Friday!

   My King
In my night, I besiege my King, I get up little by little and I wring his neck.
He regains his strength, I come back at him and wring his neck again.
I shake him again and again like an old plum tree, and his crown wobbles on his head.
And yet, he is my King, I know it and he knows it, and of course I'm at his service.
Still, in the night, the passion of my hands strangles him relentlessly. No cowardice though, I come
in with my bare hands and I squeeze his Kingly neck.
And he's my King, the one I've been vainly strangling for so long in the privacy of my little room; his
face, bluish at first, becomes normal after a little while, and his head pops up again, every night, every
In the privacy of my little room, I fart in my King's face. Then, I burst out laughing. He tries to
present a calm countenance, clean of all insult. But I fart in his face without stopping, except to turn
around to him and burst out laughing in his noble face, which tries to maintain its majesty.
This is the way I act with him, endlessly beginning my shadowy life.
And now I throw him down on the ground and I sit on his face—his august face disappears—my
rough oil-spotted pants, and my behind (because after all that's what it's called) remain, without
embarrassment, on that face made to rule.
And I don't hesitate, not me! to turn left and right, whenever I feel like it and even more often than
that, without worrying about his eyes or his nose being in the way. I only leave when I'm tired of sitting.
And if I turn around, his imperturbable face reigns, still.
I slap him, I slap him, then I wipe his nose mockingly like a child's.
However, it is quite obvious that he is the King, and I his subject, his only subject.
I boot him out of the room with kicks in the ass. I cover him with kitchen scraps and garbage. I
break dishes on his legs. I cram low, well-aimed insults into his ears, hitting him deeply and shamefully
with calumnies you might hear on the streets of Naples, particularly

dirty and detailed, so that just to hear them is a stain you can't get rid of, a revolting suit made to
measure: the very dung of existence.
Well, I have to begin all over again the next day.
He has come back; he is there. He is always there. He can't clear off for good. He absolutely has to
impose his accursed royal presence on me, in my room—which is small enough already.
All too often I become involved in lawsuits. I run up debts, I get into knife fights, I abuse children, I
can't help it, I just can't really manage to get the spirit of the Laws into my head.
When the Other Side has made its complaint to the tribunal, my King hardly listens to my reasons
and takes up the Other Side's case, which becomes an indictment in his august mouth, a terrible
preliminary that's really going to do me in.
Only at the end does he bring in a few trifling restrictions.
The Other Side, feeling that it's a small matter indeed, prefers to withdraw those few subsidiary
complaints, and the bench strikes them. It's enough for the Other Side just to be sure of the rest.
At this point, my King takes up the argument from the start, always as if it were his own, but cutting
it down slightly a bit more. Once this has been done, and an agreement reached on these details, he
takes up the argument again from the beginning, and, weakening it little by little in this way, from step
to step, from fresh start to fresh start, he reduces it to such nonsense, that the shamefaced bench and
all the magistrates wonder who dared to convoke them for trifles of this sort, and a negative verdict is
delivered amid the hilarity and jeers of the public.
Then, my King, paying no more attention to me than if I were not involved at all, rises and goes
away, impenetrable.
One may wonder if this is really a job for a King; yet here's where he shows what he is—that tyrant,
who can let nothing, nothing, happen without showing off his powers of enchantment, crushing, with no
appeal possible.
What an idiot I was to try to throw him out! Why didn't I leave him in that room, calmly, calmly,
without paying any attention to him.
But no. Idiot that I was—and as for him, seeing how easy it is to reign, he'll soon tyrannize over a
whole country.
Wherever he goes, he makes himself at home.

And no one is surprised, it's as if he has belonged there forever.
They wait, they don't say a word, they wait for Him to decide.
In my little room animals come and go. Not at the same time. Not intact. But they go by—a petty,
ludicrous procession of the forms of nature. The lion comes in with his lowered head bruised and dented
like an old ball of rags. His poor paws flapping. It's hard to see how he can move forward—wretchedly, in
any case.
The elephant comes in all deflated and less solid than a fawn.
And so it goes for the rest of the animals.
No appliances. No machines. The automobile comes in thoroughly laminated and might make a
parquet floor at a pinch.
Such is my little room where my inflexible King wants nothing, nothing that he has not knocked
around, mangled, reduced to nothing, a room where I, on the other hand, have asked so many to be my
Even the rhinoceros, that brute who can't stand man, who charges at everything (and so solid,
carved in rock), the rhinoceros himself one day came in as an almost impalpable fog, evasive and
without resistance . . . and floated.
The little curtain over the skylight was a hundred times stronger than he was, a hundred times
stronger than he—the strong, impetuous rhinoceros who stops at nothing.
But my King does not want rhinoceroses to enter in any fashion other than weak and trickling.
Another time, maybe he'll let him get around on crutches . . . and, to hold him in, a semblance of
skin, a thin child's skin that could be torn by a grain of sand.
This is how my King authorizes the animals to parade before us. Only like this.
He reigns; he has got me; he does not care for distractions.
This tiny little rigid hand in my pocket, that's all that's left of my fiancée.
A tiny hand, dry and mummified (could it really have been hers?). That's all he left me of Her.

He took her away from me. He lost her for me. He reduced her to nothing for me!
In my little room, the palace ceremonies are as wretched as can be.
Even snakes are not low enough, don't grovel enough for him, even a motionless pine would offend

Also, what appears at his Court (in our poor little room!) is so incredibly disappointing that the lowest
worker would not envy him.
Besides, who but my King—and I, because I'm used to it—could find some respectful being in those
advances and retreats of dark matter, those little flurries of dead leaves, those few drops that fall, grave
and desolate, in the silence.
A vain homage, moreover!
Imperceptible are the movements of His face, imperceptible.

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