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Kokoro | Book review by Marc Wetzel

[The following is a brief translation of Marc Wetzel’s original review in French, with Anna-Marie Ravitzki’s poems in French]

« Il y a des gens qui sont comme un métro
Un train des profondeurs de la terre
Parce que leur oxygène est le dioxyde de carbone.
Mon amour est un macaron
De chez Pierre Hermé
J’y mords
Et la ganache s’échappe dans tous les sens.
Il y a des gens qui ne savent pas conserver
Leur amour .
Parce qu’aimer c’est
Fertiliser sans cesse autour du tronc.
Je vous le dis
Répandez beaucoup d’engrais
Pour qu’il pénètre dans le corps
Qu’il flotte sur la conscience
Afin qu’elle devienne une vierge assoiffée pour l’éternité
Car il est interdit de mettre le réveil
Pendant l’acte d’amour »  (p. 54)

I think this rosary of poems, exhilarating and complex, answers an unexpected yet very valid question: Is true sensuality religious?
Is there even a possibility for a religion that is entirely corporal, touching and longing at the same time?
Is it desired? Logical? No doubt, this will be a religion that is devoid of external churches, without independent rituals, and no public congregation.
Are the vows of lovers spiritually charged? If we consider the availability of sensuality,  can it be likened to a closeness with god and to the surrender to the will of god? Can all the passion and desire for the flesh of another truly be a prayer (a begging for a redemption, or a swift change in reality?) Can elated blessing be uttered without a chuckle, can there be no victim at all, can there be a place where, with a wondrous whirl of inclination, we renounce our renunciation?

« Ton nom est gravé dans sa voile
Qui m’a connue
Et toi qui m’as chuchoté
Ma Bien-Aimée
Tu m’as conduite
A l’ivresse du cœur
Et j’ai
Cru presque mourir.
Tu es planté au plus profond de ma chair
Je suis une plaie qui n’a pas cicatrisé
Et tu es le capitaine
Dont le désir
A failli me conduire à ma perte.
Rien ne pourra m’effrayer
Ton nom est gravé sur les lèvres
Des voyageurs lointains,
Je me languis d’une patrie »  (p. 23)

And as for this very question (Can true sensuality be religious?), the answer is surprising and superb: Yes, definitely yes (and we can imagine the lesson that immediately follows: never hesitate again to involve god in the thrill of the bed, and you are hereby allowed to announce yourself a devote pilgrim while your lips unleash a long series of groans and moans). And here is the first reason for this: the beloved’s intimate hygiene (the hygiene of the body and the soul) is the opposite of neglect (and neglect is the opposite of religion!), her being desired tomorrow too is even less certain than the certainty in the existence of a Creator (from that moment a sense of premonition purgers any feeling of loneliness, without winning over or understanding its flavored taste of death!), that it offered its secret formula of enchantment to the aware commandment of another (aware and thus potentially violent, something that should never be transgressed); and this phrases it all just as it is: Any women that relinquishes her body so, should penetrate the realm of super-natural faith.

« Je te dis
Tu as placé en moi un feu archaïque
Pris à la flamme de Prométhée
Tu as allumé le feu rampant
Dans les galeries du temps
Les vapeurs de l’alcool m’ont enveloppée
Afin que j’enferme dans mon alliance
L’épée du serment.
Combien tu aimais pleurer
Quand je te menais au seuil
De la volupté espérée
J’ai effacé certaines de tes vaches sacrées
Car toi aussi, là-bas
Mon très beau
Grand maître
Tu as été abandonné par moi
Mais l’odeur de ta semence
Fait germer sur ma peau
Jour après jour
Des étincelles de grâce
Et de ce qui ne ressemble à rien
Et les voies du plaisir
Et de la sagesse
Et la voie du sentiment enivrant
Et le temps de notre désir
Ne laissent pas
Mon sang refroidir »  (p. 59)

But saying religion is saying tradition, and also saying that worshiping god has fundamental precedence, and that you must take the matter or rituality as it is (and the framework upon which all the body parts have been founded) or leave! And the frame of the loved one here (free in her passiveness, passionate in her insistence) does not change for a minute: It is Mary Magdalene (Magdalene, her name preceding her wherever she goes, siding with her in all her wandering, and filling her with inspiration in every moment of hesitation – so filled to the brim with inspiration that the poet does not hesitate in the face of any or all of destructions!) who was a whore (the only profession, except for lawyers and pimps, where you carry the other’s sins with you – the vey opposite of a decently straight confessional priest who transports his sins together with the sins of the other) Mary Magdalene who perfumed her untouchable master, who went down to embalm the body she mourned, that spread her sails straight towards Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and came, like our poet here (from Israel and Périgord), to live-out in Gaul her very own passing.

« J’ai erré avec toi dans l’eau
Et voulu éteindre la lumière
Je cherchais le silence
Des dernières heures de la nuit.
Tu es mon centre
Tu m’agrippes
Et tu concentres en toi
La profusion de mes identités.
Tu me laves
De tes larmes
Et me couvres de vêtements
Tu m’as embaumée.
Je suis une âme
Embaumée en toi.
Je ne veux qu’être allongée sur le pont
Lever les yeux
Vers le néant
Et te rencontrer
A travers
Le monde des sentiments… »  (p. 35)

Hence, to live in France, the most protected country in the world, a place that is in itself the quintessential representation of the globe’s wealth of color and hue, like the lava of her beloved that curbs within himself the entire span of god’s ideals; France from Sarlat to Perpignan, is a sumptuous boudoir of ancient life, as well as the geomorphological script of the Creator, or the Occitan architype of the act of genesis.

« Une de mes jambes
Est restée chez lui
Une jambe protectrice
Qui me parle en rêve
Me mène
A l’endroit où
Je suis en contact avec lui
Et il saisit
Il évoque
Mon histoire
Et découvre des trésors
Qui étaient perdus
Que j’ai trouvés
Avec une flèche de mémoire
Il m’offre des cadeaux
Touche mes seins à distance
Dans mon âme a poussé
Une âme gauloise
Affamée … »  (p. 33)

The self-portrait of the love-smitten and beloved poet  is surprising: she is a “flying elephant” (a phrase that repeats itself at least three times on pages 46, 56, and 61) that has absolutely “no room for bullshit” (p. 107), asking “what got me addicted to your hands that wandered in my body like no man’s land”, or Eve “in that supreme moment between life and death” (p.29); where “my nervous system is intimate with itself and with every revelation that is exposed.” (p. 81) – which seems to be doing nothing but that which she lives to do, and shows only what she thinks. This self-teasing likening the loved-one to a “flying elephant” (can it be imagined without giggling at the her attempt at flying? Or her trial landing on the narrow runway of “ignorance”, “rage” and “dullness”? ) points at something incredible, which is: Love, an ageless momentum (“I am eternal with you” (p.115) she says mesmerizingly) is certain that evil shall never befall her, and is in actuality the only profound thing devoid of humor.

« Pour toi la seule
Qui aies enfoui ta vie
Dans les plis de mon âme
Et trempé mon sang
Dans les codes secrets de mon corps
Toi, la parfumée,
Toi, la désirée
Je serre ma vie autour de tes hanches
Je chante pour toi avec un chœur  de passereaux
Qui flottent au-dessus de tes seins blancs
Et le navire …
Tu es le chant
Sans lequel
Les courbes de mon corps
Disparaîtraient comme néant et vide
Car tu es mon savoir
Et tu es mon rêve
Et jamais tu ne déroberas mes souffrances
Malgré ton désir ardent »  (p. 70)

Anna-Marie is a lady “pasionaria”, she is one of the furies, she is pure feeling. She is a poet that sings her feelings until her true nature is revealed. In a woman in love, this risk taking and this admitting is a sure sign of profound emotional behavior, translated into taking active part in the “raisons de vivre” that can incorporate and include us within it, or otherwise distance us. This is how the sense of sublimity and softness creates a parallelism with the surroundings of man, for whom we softened up to take hold of the formula of the flesh; the sense of frailty is rooted in the duty to find the “raisons de vivre” for which we account to nothing. The sense of elatedness is the feeling that we are being included in something that is, without a doubt, bigger than our self, which is a looming disproportion, yet it still makes us its partner. If feeling is mankind’s alone, it is because mankind is an animal that knows it is born (meaning our consciousness comes second to our history, that man knows before he knows), and knows that we are destined to die (that the impending void is imminent, that the universe shall unravel us, that there will be no room for our existence in the world, that it will work it workings on us before we are done working). Love is like a child that forfeits himself to the word so that the world shall continue looking after him, and also like an old man that has been living so long, the world will never leave it. Love (as Anna-Marie wonderfully puts it) “pushes us into the deep of the forest through a side door thousands of years old”, and she is right in declaring this.

« Prends soin de mon cœur
Je te le demande
Puis tu me racontes
Que la femme est née pour faire l’amour
Et cela inonde mon cœur d’une fièvre sauvage
Qui cherche à ne pas s’inonder
Et je te demande à nouveau
De prendre soin de mon cœur
Car je m’enchevêtre dans les sentiments (…)
Parce que seule celle qui est née pour faire l’amour
Peut saigner autant »  (p. 73)

« Kokoro » is the Japanese word for the world of the heart (or perhaps the heart of the world). Yet, a person seeking to tend to their heart, should first acknowledge their reasons for loving. And what is the source of these reasons if not the source of all hearts (a source long lost, yet solidified)? And what are their reasons if not to fight for others? The heart can only feel familiar and be recognized when we reveal to it our reasons for which we fight for it. But we must continue being, continue living (and enlivening) from this revelation, within a humane fate built from materials that are ever so fragile, opaque and dispersed: One exploded, and the best that could be done since by the most burning heart of hearts, is to know that “his body is two” (p.88). Two is enough, offers the poet so eloquently, to enjoy – with the most yearning absolution of all absolutions – the One.

« Je dois voler
Je vous le dis
Je dois voler.
J’ai lu toutes les théories physiques
J’ai libéré mes seins sur le navire
En pleine mer
Mon désir n’a pas cessé un seul instant
Et je continue de vous le dire
Je dois voler.
J’erre sans arrêt
Je compromets ma réputation
Pour vous parler d’étoiles de mer
Et de fusées
Et de celui qui me visite chaque nuit
Et me dit :
« Merde
À la force de gravitation,
Tu dois voler. »
Mon feu brûle
Je suis le tonnerre
Je suis un éclair
Je saisis les tempêtes
Et non les cornes de l’autel
Ma lave ne se calmera pas
Avant que je m’envole »  (p. 72)