Anatomy of La IIIe République: By Alexandre Dumas, fils*

* Cf. Fanon, always Fanon.

Sit yo black ass down; face white lecturers:
Lap up Lechery—

Can-can of cant
no can-do—

of liberté, égalité, fraternité—

and no pretense either.

(Even th’Emperor—
was a turd,
a piece of human dirt.)

And the dark-pigment pimps of Pigalle preach,
“Pallid men quail,
fearin black snakes.”

Meanwhile, thugs mug as bankers;
rapists doll up as pastors.

Paris is Pigalle, not the Louvre.

La Sorbonne apes Le Moulin Rouge.

II. Prélude (circa 1867)

See? Baudelaire pipes drooling poetry—
gamey verses—
cause he wanna screw down Jeanne Duval,
Queen Creole siren
(whose négligé shows nappy, silken négritude).

He wanna fuck that puffy-nippled, voodoo chile—
that foxy, tropic minx—
inimical to Morality;

he lusts to jet
white blossoms on her pubic sable.

Thus, his sonnets exalt, but don’t preserve

(though he only got a worm-size prick,
testicles no bigger than a sugar-lump).

He dream of her beauty,
he brag of her beauty;
he adores the ornaments
of this elemental beauty; and he is tender, ardent,
as his anatomizing eyes graze upon her every atom;
while she smokes opium
in a saccharine light,
in rosé dusk or dawn;
and he wants to gallop her gynaecological beauty. . . .

Instead, he jabbers—
rank blabbing of an alexandrine
slid from vers blanc to ink-black—

but a true-blue, blue-gummed gent—
the pigeon-toed, pidgin-tongue nigger—

snags Duval’s chocolate-sweet ass

with his elegant sass.

III. Paris—Métropole—cries to its colonies,
“Mo’ cocoa, coffee, cocaine”;
“Y’all think a piano
a coffin for a pony”;
and damns dark ports and portals
as “vortices of Crime.”

Frère, Br’er,
go from Martinique to France—
come from Egypt to France—
ya enter a maelstrom,
becoming now a nigger
a bo’n criminal
et un idiot
even if your soul
is as complicated as Macedonia’s
incestuous, but variegated tribes.

Existence tastes like palm wine:

Negro intellectual,
you confront
a crude, nervous race—
souls clipped by Anguish
even as you sip icy wine in infernal August
and count the vermillion, vermin-ridden corpses
of Franco-conquistadors,
who ended up speared in Tahiti. . . .


The true French history:

Black Eiffel Tower
penetrating pale Arc de Triomphe.

White muse, black penis.

[Halifax (Nova Scotia) 25 septembre mmxi]

Questions and Answers

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

This poem belongs to an epic poem that I am writing–and have been writing since starting it in Zanzibar, Tanzania, in February 2008: “Canticles.” The first book of the projected three deals with transatlantic slavery, Western imperialism, and the image of the “African” (Negro, Moor, B/black, etc.) in the West. My method for writing each poem is to go somewhere (away from my home in Toronto), look at notebooks full of RANDOM phrases, and then begin to assemble a “speech”–of some sort–out of meditating upon the randomly allotted phrases. At some point, a coherent speaker and narrative begins to coalesce or emerge. So, “Anatomy of La IIIe République,” was written in Halifax, N.S., on the date specified, as I sat in a hotel room connecting together random phrases I’d jotted down months and weeks before. Finding connections–narrative, psychological, etc.—among fragments allowed me to begin to construct a poem that was set in the decadent Paris of Moulin Rouge and absinthe, but a city that was still the capital of an oppressive Empire, which was especially exploitative in its treatment of Africans and Arabs. Once that narrative began to emerge out of the RANDOM fragments, I knew the speaker was the mixed-race (Mulatto) author, Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824-1895), who was likely not a fan of French imperialism and who may have had his reservations re: the race-interested, “love” poetry of Charles Baudelaire.

What poetic techniques do you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

Because my first answer is so long, I’ll be brief here: I care a LOT about rhyme and metre, but “Anatomy of La IIIe République” is in free verse (vers libre). My aim, in all my poetry, is to produce each poem as a ‘speech” or “song,” and I use the devices that allow me to achieve this aim. Ideally, one should read the poem and “hear” the voiced psychology and political views of M. Dumas, fils.

This poem “Anatomy of La IIIe République: By Alexandre Dumas, fils*” originally appeared in Recursive Time. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 222 (Autumn 2014): 30-33.

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