Blaise Cendrars (trans. Tony Baker)
Elastic Poem 2: Tower
West House Anthology
 
 
1910
Castellamare
I was dining on an orange in the shade of an orange tree
When all at once…
It wasn’t Vesuvius erupting
Wasn’t the locust-cloud, one of the ten plagues of Eygpt
Nor Pompeii
Wasn’t the giant groanings of resuscitated mastodons
Wasn’t the last trumpet sounding
Nor M. Pierre Brisset’s frog
When all at once
Fires
Plate-shiftings
Echo-joltings
Incandescence of simultaneous horizons
My sex

                    O Eiffel Tower!
I’ve not made you shoes of gold
I’ve not made you dance the crystal walkways
I’ve not vowed you to the Python like a virgin from Carthage
I’ve not had you fitted with the Greek peplos
I’ve never made you wander in the precincts of menhirs
I’ve not named you ‘Stem of David’ nor ‘Wood of the Cross’
Lignum Crucis
                    O Eiffel Tower
Overarcing firework of the World Fair!
On the Ganges
At Benares
Amongst the onanistic spinning-tops of Hindu temples
And the flagrant cries of Far Eastern hordes
You lean over, gracious Palm!
It’s you who in the legendary days of the Hebrew people
Confounded the language of men
O Babel!
And some thousand years later, it’s you who came down again in tongues
          of fire upon the heads of the Apostles gathered in your church
In mid-ocean you are a mast
And at the North pole
Your wireless signals blaze with all the glory of the Aurora Borealis
Lianas entangle the eucalyptus trees
And you drift on, old trunk, down the Mississippi
When
Your gob opens
And a cayman seizes a negro’s thigh
In Europe you’re like a gibbet
(I’d like to be that tower, to hang from the Eiffel Tower!)
And when the sun sinks behind you
Bonnot’s head rolls below the guillotine
In the heart of darkness it’s you that run
Giraffe
Ostrich
Boa
Equator
Monsoons
In Australia you’ve always been taboo
You are the grappling hook used by Captain Cook
          to keep order among his shipload of adventurers
O plumb-line of the skies!
For Delaunay the Simultaneous, to whom I dedicate this poem,
You are the paintbrush he steeps in light

Gong djembe zanzibar jungle beast X-ray TGV surgeon’s knife
          symphony
You are all
Tower
Ancient god
Modern beast
Solar spectrum
Subject of my poem
Tower
World tower
Tower in movement

                                                 August 1913