Outsider poems, a mini-anthology in progress (49): From 'The Ahmed Fragments,' 'Of Ants, Arabs, & the Art of Civilization'

Translated by Pierre Joris

(The Ahmed Fragments are my translations/adaptations of a series of monologues improvised in 1972/1973 in front of a tape recorder by Ahmed Taraoui, an Algerian worker “born about 1940,” and published under the title Une vie dalgérien, est-ce un livre que les gens vont lire? [ Does an Algerians Life Make For a Book People Will Read?] by Le Seuil in 1973. Moussa Lebkiri & his Théâtre Nedjma created a play called Et moi, je suis resté comme une chaise based on these texts in 1983. [P.J.])


when one is young
one always looks for the war
one collects red ants black ants
and one says:
that one (the red
is an arab
and that other one is the french.
let’s see who’ll win.
the red one will fight
the black one.
of course you know
that a red ant
will be massacred
in a single second,
will be cut up
carved up piece by piece
— I swear it’s so.
well, if the arab people
if we
don’t have scientists
still we have
all it takes.
all of africa is rich
my friend. full
of gold full
of diamonds.
so why don’t they want
to buy scientists?
or give their children
to the civilized countries
to become scientists?
even if they can’t do that
they can always buy scientists,
even one scientist: they can
pay him billions
and spy on him so that
someone may capture
his profession.
they can I
hope manage
that, no?

but god he
know that the arabs
have only mortal dreams
mean dreams.
that they always itch
for a fight that
they want to destroy the world.
before, okay, the arabs
had a good brain… (oh but then
you know, anyway, that they have been
at war for centuries and centuries)
so god, he know
that at the end they are very
bad. very very very very bad
and that’s why he
made this wind you see a wind it
hit them in the eyes
it entered their ears
it entered their brains
made them forget all that
all the science all the
civilization all of that
forever . it makes them think
only of women. only of women,
only of changing. five
six ten
women a year
each year. an arab be he
sixty or seventy
if he comes he is still
a man:
his cock, it still exists.
still valid.
he can make children
with a girl who is twenty
(but not above. right. from
fourteen to twenty because
above twenty she is old she
can no longer make
children it’s over
from fourteen to twenty
that’s the age
of woman)
                              he’ll think
only of that
only of fucking
only of his cock
so that’s why god
made the wind
he knows
that if they had been scientists
they would have destroyed the whole world.
yes, I don’t think
the world would still exist!
that’s why god
who knows what people become
he has stopped them.

you see, me, I am
the last one.
you won’t believe the illusions
I sometime make.
would you find anybody
talk like I do? sometimes
when I speak people for example
my buddies my work mates my girl friends
they say “this dude you realize
he’s totally crazy! why don’t they’
treat him? lock him
up?” so
what do I talk? me, I
says “if I was like
that napoleon the twenty first
who wants to make roads
to cross to I don’t know where
I would make a kind of radar.
what I think now is not
of today: I thought it
for the first time
in my country though I was
so very stupid I was talking
of such things: a kind of
radar that there is no one
can know of. that radar it
could watch me the whole world
by science by civilization
by illness by everything.
I see everything
the plane
when it takes off from the ground
the ship when it goes
out of the harbor: I can
see it… it doesn’t mean
they all go together: I got
kind of buttons
and I make like in the movies, whammm
I screen switzerland I screen
japan I look at everything at the
same time the harbor
I see the whole harbor
the planes the people etcetera etcetera etcetera
I see everything that happens.

then there won’t be
any illusions
there will be no problems
for people who want to leave
the land or who have finished
to build the land:
one will see those parts
of the land that are empty
(I don’t know how many million
square kilometers) that are
empty or that they don’t manage
to finish.

you see
they want to go up there.
what are they looking for
up there you tell me
you tell me one day
they’ll find an ass
up there and that ass
will piss on them
I’m absolutely sure of that!
if I had that radar
science would be good
like for example medicine
to heal the sick. if I could
I would make a radio that I
carry like a suitcase like.
instead of people bothering
to come and see me
— maybe the sick they would
die while walking —
I’d go myself I’d take
that radio like a suitcase
and the moment I’s get there
I’d see everything,
I’d see the things that circulate
I’d see all things.
that’s how I wanted to do things.

about the art of civilization we’ll stop
here. let’s ask god to give us
another day...