George Elliott Clarke

MEMORIAL REGARDING THE DEMISE OF GENERAL LECLERC

by Pauline Bonaparte

I.

L’ Océan shunted General Leclerc
& I, forlorn wife, plus our boy, Dermide,
cross disturbed ocean—

wave tips like sword tips,
parrying light….

So we flotilla’d de la France
74 ships,
sprouting cannon, sabres, boots, plumes—
to surge unto Saint-Domingue,
to purge hostile niggers,
shackle the grinning ones—

to press more sugar for our coffee.

But Leclerc, mon homme, floundered in tropic malaise:
He trooped, ex Le Cap, contra Christophe,
and Christophe crushed our capitol down to ash.
Merde!

(Husband did fool L’Ouverture bout an “armistice.”
Thus, the chimp fell—
a defanged Hannibal—
into France’s tubercular jails.

This Treachery tells our sole Triumph.)

II.

May 1802 birthed miasma.

“Yellow Jack” broke out;
Contagion defining contiguous:

Blood-sucking mosquitoes slew more French
than did niggers’ blood-sucking daggers.

Quarantined aboard L’ Océan,
Dermide and I—Maman, kept aloof;
laughed off that skin-sloughin epidemic.

But, come September, I succumbed,
bit by bit,
to the plague—
the vague ague—
and so did my petit prince,
puking up his innocent guts.

Before long, I had to be prone,
stay prone,
recline,
sometimes supine,

and accept nursing from captured brutes,
sporting loin-cloths alone,

while I was nude, sweating,
drenching my sheets
to transparency.

III.

Thus, I discovered le nègre roi
his nice-size manliness….

No better gilding for a white lily
than a black-ass, Guinea man.

We got up to hijinx.
Unhygienic.

I got to absorb fluid gold,
soak up wet gold,
steep in hot gold,
then sleep—
deep—
the sleep of the rich.

IV.

(Slavery is azure,
celestial,
when black beasts sate—
like satyrs—
Loneliness.

I also adore a plump, black wench,
bustlin bout, bussin bottles and pots:
Such guarantees a tasty feast.

You, sir, doubt?

Admit that Mauritania, Mauritius,
Morocco—
all of Africa—
are where white Bourbons breed bastards—
succinct climax upon climax—
as monsieur after monsieur
rises from a dark, spasmodic négresse.

I digress.

Preachers warn of a transatlantic melancholia
Africans sicken from,
chained to our needs.

Crap!

Th’Ethiopian womb whelps slaves
consummate for each colic colony.

Don’t tell me of the “tragical Negress”!
Don’t dress her up
as an undressed virgin among ferns….

Non! She’s a tobacco Venus,
the gross goddess of the fart.

And all the red murders that Civilization mandates,
all turn rusty, sepia, in nostalgic recollection,
in heroic, Kindergarten pages,
anyhow.

Those priests who complain about our profits
are crude beings
who shit in a crystal toilet.)

V.

I got to like a black man
ladling coffee at supper,

then eyeing my skin
as I bathed,
letting water drip from me—
wet, sparkling diamonds.

Healthy it was—
to let a blackamoor plough me as his field of snow,

or undulating petals,
and toy with my blossoms,

then plunge his chocolate stick deep in my milk,
stirring.

I liked to pray like a courtesan;
copulate à la courtesan;
slink from deck to deck—
as a courtesan;
and behave always, in every way,
as a crème de la crème courtesan.

(My core is
a wet, pink nautilus.)

VI.

To shutter my “shenanigans,”
hubby schemed to usher me to Paris,
but I screamed, “Nyet!
First, hand me a hundred-thousand francs!”

(Why should I’ve vamoosed to mon frère,
Napoléon, to play maid to his wife,
when I was the salient domino
of Saint-Domingue?)

When Leclerc lagged in filling my purse,
I malingered,
to take my fill of super-ebony bon-bons.

VII.

But November gilded ma lord’s flesh
with yellow fever,
then, quick, I carted his corpse à Toulon,

and, widowed, made a lightning wedding
in Paris, spiting Napoléon,
but adding Leclerc’s bequest of 700,000 francs
to new époux Camillo’s chest of 300,000 francs,

so I was sittin pretty,

ready, very ready,
to fuck that fiddler Niccolò Paganini,

and still soak in skin-silkening milk
ladled by thick-dicked blackamoors,

and then get carved, reclining
(breasts aired),
in warm, white marble,
thanks to Antonio Canova’s Lust-flustered hands.

Oh, and Dermide died;
I imagine this was in 1804.

[Calgary (Alberta) 1 avril /Nisan mmxi
& Cambridge (Massachusetts) 9 novembre mmxiii]


George Elliott Clarke derives his identity from many cultures and backgrounds—African/American/Aboriginal, English, Christian (Baptist), Nova Scotian, working-class/bourgeois, Canadian, Occidental, ‘Leftist,’ intellectual, artist. No wonder he is such a mess of tensions! He is also, as one of his professors once said (though he was only guessing), “a sinful bastard.” Damn! Clarke is currently the Poet Laureate of Toronto.

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