Issue 18: Louis Armand

Descartes' Dog


A man must be caught dead

before he takes himself seriously

                         – Norman Mailer (1969)

He considers his resemblance to Melmoth.

A torso on the moon, in a fine light

slanted – three / tired / parallel / lines

where the contradictions lay subtly upon.

And laughed, “I am as a tidelocked sea.

Not all that can be said, will be.”

Still at the bedside before his time,

& pulls faces in the mirror –

“Take up the roles, haha, tear the photographs,

the dreadful imaginaries!”

Dancing in the inshala-la, dancing in the…

For the eyes to unclose, for the fear not to.

As near as the other side

of that window, as history –

so long as there’s blood in these veins, even

if other people’s. He considers his resemblance.


Looked at verbwise in unpolished glass

as “from within”

the picture resembles

in its scale & attack

a propensity, a notation of mentalese.

                                        Arrayed like

                                        Saturn’s moons,

                                        the migraine stirs –

strange transits which

in ten, a thousand years

might still conjunct, luminesce –

                                        brain volume &

                                        eye volume,

                                        the tipped balance.

And are our children thus dead before us?


He had only two wishes:





The visible light

slowed to a standstill,

beguiled by the

striped wallpaper,

une paysage dépassé.

Watching them

wheel their chairs

around the park:

he only OD’d

for the camera,

“It’s not like y’d make

a career of it.”

Counting black sheep

to surface –

two pisshole eyes

in the correctional

high tower.

Europe at 3 o’clock

in the afternoon

was a fish a rock

a shit a deletion –

“I killed them

y’re killing me

you also must die.”

Time if the world

turned on a pin,

restless in lockstep.

And stood behind himself,

a ruin – dead

roaches in his hair –

conducting the scenery.


He concluded on a sour note.

He abjured prostituted ached.

He confused himself with his avatars.

He forgot his hearing.


Such a weight borne down for the last

stroke – the changeling prince

in the bearded-lady pietà

                  Vergine madre, figlia

                                               del tuo figlio…

Lies there in his hand-me-downs

while the Weegee politburo guy

solemnly pulls a trick from his sleeve

for realism’s children to gawk at.

But the hand we see in the picture isn’t the same

as the hand that performs

                                          our nightly eviscerations –

miming a beat-up transvestite

in a Buonarotti clown car.

               A curtain twitches in the stepped fortress

of the hero’s mind,

                                       as a cloud crosses the glass


                                       forever seaward,

                                       & the clock, unadmonished,



All things retrospective by appointment.

For instance, who were you?

Soulless as the production of uniform opinion is,

in the present case, etc.

Kind, they said, to ants, flywheels & dust,

but a fossil for a backbone.

Ah, how sweet it tastes,

the life before they made you.

Four legs because intended to crawl.

And hunched beneath the viaduct baying,

Doggerel’s death to the dog!


Nadir to the sun we have no shadow

                         – Thomas Herbert (1638)

That it creates the myth of itself – the end of the road

of the centuries to come, mollusc-eyed –

a foetus on a collapsed stretch of paper, crossed-out

& re-begun – wheels, larvae, ectoplasm, a whole

masticated alphabet of choked frenzies.

How read the map of this masquerade?

The wall-people, the starers, made Sleeping Beauty faces

on the TV of his mind; his formative years,

dabbling in blank austerities (his face was his revenge).

The machine kept everything to schedule –

a wind rose through its bones like a vast antipode:

dig as they might, the grim adjustments, the dead

batteries, weren’t cathedrals in space.

Nothing here for the opinionated monkeys.

Such crimes, such abominations!

Omission had always been his intimate companion –

he carried a window with him everywhere

even on his wedding night (the sperm-counts

of the galaxies supplicated themselves).

He roared, he conjured, he was the century’s

unacknowledged primitive, vaulting between abyss

& nothing – the world that begins & the world

without beginning – to gravitate, as do

the parts of the mind, in a mobile epilepsy

(that a man be greater than the sum of his dross?).

He was the deuce inside – straining at a gnat

& swallowing a camel – the maggot in the brain,

the tightrope-walker with a peg-leg. Had they

wished him to exist (to creature the myth of themselves

or to any other end) he’d’ve refused on principle –

he only went where he wasn’t wanted.

Louis Armand is the author of the novels The Combinations (2016), Cairo (2014), and Breakfast at Midnight (2012). In addition, he has published several recent collections of poetry – including East Broadway Rundown (2015) & The Rube Goldberg Variations (2015) – & is the author of Videology (2015) & The Organ-Grinder’s Monkey: Culture after the Avantgarde (2013). He lives in Prague.