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"Sperm Heaven" [by Henri Michaux, trans. David Lehman]

Henri-Michaux
Sperm Heaven

                             -- a translation of Henri Michaux's “Le Ciel du Spermatozoide”

A man’s sperm bears a curious resemblance to the man himself – to his character, I should say.

A woman’s egg bears an astounding resemblance to that woman’s character.

Both sperm and egg are tiny. The sperm is very long and totally single-minded. The egg expresses ennui and harmony in one stroke. Its shape is nearly that of a sphere.

Not all sperm are like a man’s. The sperm of a crab and even more so that of a crayfish resemble the corolla of a flower. The supple radiant arms seem to reach out not to a female but to heaven.

Given the regularity of crab reproduction, you might well suppose that these decapod crustaceans know what they’re doing. 

In fact, we know nothing about the heaven of the crab, although there are people who catch crabs and dangle them by the tentacles, the better to observe them. We know even less about the heaven of the sperm of the crab.

(trans. David Lehman, who notes that Michaux, born in Belgium (1891-1984) , celebrated his birthday on May 24th. )


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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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