I was not a Man like You | A poem by Benjamin Fondane, 1933

I was not a Man like You | A poem by Benjamin Fondane, 1933
Man Ray,  Benjamin Fondane, 1928                     Victor Brauner, The Head of Benjamin Fondane, 1931

Yes, exactly like you I was cruel,

I yearned for tenderness, for power,

for gold, for pleasure and pain.

Like you I was mean and anguished,

solid in peacetime, drunk in victory,

and staggering, haggard, in the hour of failure.

Yes, I was a man like other men,

nourished on bread, on dreams, on despair. Oh, yes,

I loved, I wept, I hated, I suffered,

I bought flowers and did not always

pay my rent. Sundays I went to the country

to cast for unreal fish under the eye of God,

I bathed in the river

that sang among the rushes and I ate fried potatoes

in the evening. And afterwards, I came back for bedtime

tired, my heart weary and full of loneliness,

full of pity for myself,

full of pity for man,

searching, searching vainly upon a woman’s belly

for that impossible peace we lost

some time ago, in a great orchard where,

flowering, at the center,

is the tree of life.

Like you I read all the papers, all the bestsellers,

and I have understood nothing of the world

and I have understood nothing of man,

though it often happened that I affirmed

the contrary.

And when death, when death came, maybe

I pretended to know what it was, but now truly I can tell you at this hour,

it has fully entered my astonished eyes,

astonished to understand so little-

have you understood more than I?

And yet, no!

Benjamin Fondane, I was not a man like you
from “Super Flumina Babylonis”  c.1933

Benjamin Fondane (1898-1944)

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