- France -
The Evening Paper. A bio-bibliographical essay
by Aldo Qureshi
My career path is an utter and complete failure. Bankruptcy began with an internship in a printing plant. Then came McDonald’s, with the manager’s unbelievable enthusiasm, the French fries eaters’ frenzy, etc. A while later, I joined a drama school, then it was McDonald’s again, telephone surveys, extras, babysitting, more surveys, and – an almost inevitable and logical consequence – I landed a job at Disneyland Paris. Then I started working in a pub, first as a dishwasher, and then as a waiter. This resume is sometimes the inspiration for my poetry, when I decide to use myself as a practice target, or when I feel I should return to my own humble level and remember where I came from.
As for my school years? A long succession of zeros, jazzed up with extracurricular experiments.
I was born in 1975 and started writing poems in the early 1990s (that was about two or three years before my time at the printing plant). These poems I wrote were not borne of any real urge to express anything in particular – a little like those drawings you make while talking on the phone. When you hang up, you’re faced with that sort of landscape you’ve just drawn – and something tells you to carry on and widen your scope.
I first published my writing on the internet, then in chapbooks, and in reviews. I started exploring this inner landscape– as well as this writing – 28 years ago, and even though this is my main occupation, I’m well aware that it might fail me anytime.
There is an episode in Twilight Zonewhere the main character, on his way to the bank where he works, buys the morning paper out of the subway station and drops a coin in the vendor’s box. As he begins his day at work, he can hear one of his colleagues speak ill of him – however, the said colleague’s lips haven’t moved. A while later, it’s the director’s secretary who – her lips also closed – sounds her opinion of him, expressing a romantic feeling which he hadn’t been aware of – until he eventually understands that he is able to hear his colleagues’ thoughts. He even overhears a clerk who plans to steal a certain amount of money from the bank – just a whim, as it later would turn out. At the end of his day’s work, as he reaches the subway station, our man buys the evening paperand puts another coin in, which topples over the one he had inserted in the morning, which had stood in balance on its edge. The vendor complains about it to his employee, since he had been able to keep the coin standing the whole day. Afterwards, our man realizes he cannot hear any thoughts around him anymore.
I must have been about ten years old when I first saw this Twilight Zoneepisode, and my imagination was struck by its both absurd and benign outcome. This absurdity and apparent benignity somewhat suffuse most of my poems, insofar as I do think that poetry writing is quite similar to this bank clerk’s situation, in that he can hear what his colleagues think. Something is in balance, in an unusual position, and as long as that balance holds, I have access to these poems which, as they map out a territory, seem to be pointing to a specific place and location, the address of which is missing. Just like the bank clerk who was unaware that the coin had remained in balance on its edge, I cannot quite explain where these poems come from. As I said, I have long thought that the writing of these poems was similar to drawing some sort of a map of a given territory, like a parallel world which only made sense to me. Or so I thought, at least, until my poems started to be circulated. And suddenly, when the first books were published – Made in Eden(L'Atelier de l'agneau, 2018) and Barnabas(VANLOO, 2018) –, it turned out that these bits and pieces, these fragments of maps, seemed to be familiar to other people as well; that they had been to this territory too, they knew the place, they were familiar with its relief. “Half-man, half-beast, his world looks like ours in an odd way, a 2040-version of ours.”(Carole Darricarrère, Sitaudis.fr)Other readers seem to have been guessing, more than the time, the place of origin: “This physiological oneirism has its roots in childhood and spells.” (François Huglo, Sitaudis.fr) The jobs I mentioned, however pointless or short-lived, seem to partake in the population of this country. Such is the case with my experiences at McDonald’s and Disneyland Paris: “The dog-headed man will eventually bite his own fingers, not out of guilt, but by reflex. It all boils down to either skin, or synthetic fur.”(Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret, salon-littéraire.linternaute.com)
I had obviously lost my ways. Those aforementioned bits and pieces, and parts of a map were not born by accident; they were parts of a common territory: “There is something irresistibly disgraceful about this 3D-Male and Female Inhumanity, which the Aldo Qureshi tracking station faithfully depicts.”(Carole Darricarrère, Sitaudis.fr).This map, which draws the outline of a parallel world, looks a lot like what we find on Google Maps: “a pestilential world where man is as much a man as it is a utensil (…), a world where there no communication is possible, where ugliness is the only currency, where violence is domestic, ordinary, accepted.” (Carole Darricarrère, Sitaudis.fr). The map is increasingly precise; maybe the paper on which it is drawn is getting thinner, too. Soon the world (our world) will show through. The readers can actually feel it coming – it’s actually the most obvious option: this inner landscape thing will soon fall apart. There is no turning back. “This is a tad of the dehumanized brave new world in which we’re living.”(François Huglo, Sitaudis.fr)
This cartographer’s craft, so to speak, was supplemented from March 2017 by performances and public readings where the poems sometimes struck me as more revealing and violent than I had expected. “He devours his text by heart, mouth afire, biting his tongue, he writes with an almost maniac perversity, he does away with a certain number of certainties, goes over a fair amount of clichés (…), flirts with oneirism, onanism, with the juicy, he pushes back limits, makes a fool of himself and has lots of fun doing so, holds our breath, and awakens our inner child.”(Carole Darricarrère, ibid.)
It then struck me as impossible to move from one book to another without taking into account the territorial community between the reader and the propositions I put forth. Each poem either matches or follows the other. Each book is bonded to the previous one, and to the others which are being written – delving deeper into the territory. “Aldo Queshi’s work is built in strata, from one collection to the next. His poems have no time frame – each lives amidst a swarming immediacy. Bodies become things. Their use is untimely. The poems move among bodies; they swerve. In the area thus – often ironically – created, they dig out the uncanny, the utterly useless; language, maybe, with its expectation, its deceit, and the truth of it when it appears by chance.” (Philippe Hauer)
I have endeavored to build a house with my first collection, Made in Eden, which I filled with the people of my second book Barnabas; the others are in progress (one will be published by l'Atelier de l'agneaulate in 2019). All will partake in that ensemble which I henceforth cannot divert from.
Consequently, insofar as this territory is apparently not mine to claim, and since I have no idea where these bits of maps (my poems) come from, nor what they have in common with my fellows’, I will most likely keep on groping around, mapping, visiting this territory. And all I have to do, in order to go as far as possible and get the most accurate results, is to keep in mind that Twilight Zone episode, and remember never ever to buy the evening paper.
the lobby of anguish / le lobby de l'angoisse
I have a purse-shaped swimming suit.
Actually, it isn’t –shaped, it isa purse. It doesn’t
cover my nakedness but bumps along between my thighs
and I must walk as if I had a horse between
my legs. And it strikes me that not only is the swimming pool
full of people but that every one of them
has the flu. Every time their heads stick out of the water in step
you can spot the vermicelli hanging from their noses
or they sneeze and it squirts out. Now
that I’m here, I can’t walk back, lest I should
insult the swim teacher. This swimming pool with
its infectious swimmers beckoning me to join them,
as if they were just waiting for somebody to share their
microbes, this swimming pool pretty much
sums up my life. I swim a little, like I’m not really
there, I try not to think of the purse, of the horse
which is meant to be between my legs, and whenever I
get my head under the water, I see the dander and the filaments
which spot my presence right away, and when I
stick my head out again I see swimmers all around me,
with ringed eyes, waiting for someone to replace them, and,
behind them, the swimming teacher who is pushing microbes
and points at me with a squeegeeTranslated by Alexis Bernaut
racial profiling / contrôle au faciès
the cashier watches the Herta10 ham slices package and then looks
at the ham and looks at my ID, and then she
looks at me again, and again at the ham, as if
she were seeking to compare, to make a connection, or to find
a balance that would justify my purchase. One senses that the poem
in its tracks right now, but
it continues – bravely or foolishly, never mind,
the important thing is that it continues. The other customers twitch
their eyebrows, waiting for her reaction,
and the cashier resumes her inspection. She compares
my skin with the ham’s skin; she squints.
And then – she turns the packaging over, looking for something
at the back of the package – she hits the button
and the emergency light above the checkout starts
to blare and rotate in the shop.Translated by Alexis Bernaut
please knock / prière de frapper
the building is plagued by cameras.
You can’t treat yourself to a little compensation without
it being immediately televised. Relocate you must,
start a new life elsewhere, where they cannot
see you. And so I thought of settling
inside myself. Building a cabin, a
subcutaneous cabin – within the person’s own self.
1ststep: getting the material. And so, the next morning,
the DIY store, the streetcorner hardware store,
discreetly I swallow nails, planks, cement.
2 years’ work. Now, there is a small black house
in my stomach. Thing is, I don’t know what happened,
but there’s an extra door. An inexplicable door, with
noises behind it like people breathing. “Go have a
look!” I say, in the middle of the night, my hand on the knob,
my heart pounding. I open that door and when I hit
the light I see a weights room. Men are
doing push-ups, weightlifting,
men who measure each other up, looking at each other’s muscles.
One of them gets up to turn off the light and they
start pumping iron again, they don’t say a word, they just
breathe and make gestures in the dark
non-duality / la non-dualité
my wife and I we decided to quit calling each other nicknames.
I won’t go by the name of rabbitanymore, nor will she answer to
sweety, cupcake, honey, etc. We decided to both call
each other god. It makes talking easier, and,
in a way, it sets us on equal footing.
But then, you know what they say about what’s bred in the bone.
And there she goes, she’s at it again, giving me orders.
She calls them self-begotten streams of consciousness,
but mind you, I can still tell the difference between
Satan Trismegistus and a jar of Nutella.
Every morning she turns up with a schedule for me, she says
do this and do that, don’t eat in between meals,
avoid fry-ups, exercise, and she leaves telling me
make sure you hang the laundryand emphasizes
that I’m too old now to be playing World of Warcraft.
In the evening my feelings are black with a red tail,
feelings that are attuned to the night.
And whenever I do the shopping list, she double-checks
and crosses out: beer, potato chips, Kinder
Buenos. When we’re in the store I goOk now what
should we get? And she says: I can’t be making all
the decisions all the time... take the initiative, will you
the general estates of Swiss cheese / les états généraux du gruyère
Véronique and Jean-Claude, kids just aren’t their thing.
Problem is, Véronique is a real breeder, and Jean-Claude,
well, he just can’t help it: when it itches, he’ll
scratch. Hey I got an idea you know what we’re going to do
we’re going to put them in the cellar. And Véronique says
damn right, they’ll be comfortable down there, they’ll do as
they please. And they’d send every new one
in the cellar. But then came the time when they
started getting a little squashed in and the children
started to get out and to overrun the main floor, the 1stfloor,
and Véronique would go: “There goes my kitchen!” And
Jean-Claude would go: “It feels like we’re strangers
in our own house.” And they would hold on to each other,
and scream, and jump on their feet, and trample,
and holler – saying: “This-is-ooouur-HOME!
This-is-ooouur-HOME! This-is-ooouur-HOME!”Translated by Alexis Bernaut
oily maniac / oily maniac
my wife buys a coke to account for her presence and
I stay close to the deep fryers, lest the manager
catches me in the act of marital activity on the
job, and right away he’d go: Peter, come here!
I can’t use my real name, it’s a
marketing strategy issue. So I show up in my
uniform three sizes too small, that sticks inside my
crack: Yes, Ronald? And he goes: a customer puked
in the toilets. And I say: Ok Ronald!... He lets me
through the lobby, and then: Come back here!... This doesn’t work. He
beckons Jennifer, the cashier, and Johnny (whose real name
is Mourad), and when I’m close enough, Ronald
gives me a little slap with a slice of
cheddar. I look at my wife, signaling her not to
worry, and her turns toward her and says: Are you
his mother? And (why? I don’t know) she assents, and
Ronald invites her to follow us. And here we are, Jennifer,
Johnny-Mourad, my wife, Ronald, and I, in the
toilets, they’re standing around looking; I’m on
my knees, collecting lumps with my hands.
But that’s not good enough. I’ve had it too easy,
Ronald thinks: Madam, would you please?... And the
customer (who had hitherto remained hidden in the dropped
ceiling): Yes?..., Would you mind giving it another go?
and so she gets out, with her son, and sticks a finger
in his throat; and Ronald, turning to me:
Come on. Start again.Translated by Alexis Bernaut
the meatman / le bonhomme de viande
the little meatman hides behind the bed.
I’ve spent the whole night bugging him, trying to get the
notion of being-a-friend-of-the-family through to him,
and now he’s shaking like a leaf, trying to
distance himself from my unpredictable temper.
I can hear him sobbing with his half-eaten leg
that he’s dragging in the dust. “Come on, get out of here!...”
I try to force him out with the broom, but he bites the stick,
he struggles, he cries little ground meat-tears.
I rough him up until morning, but then,
one gets tired, even of this, you tend to get
accustomed to it; you want to move upmarket.
It isn’t enough being a human, one must have
a position (student, cashier, child tamer),
and even then, once you have a position, it still isn’t
original enough, you want something more, something
that’ll make you special. I, for instance, have a
little meatman... “Come on, get out of here!” and
when I bend over and take a look, the little man
is gone. I hear some noise in the kitchen, he’s eventually
stretched out all by himself in the pan. He points
his raw places to me, enticing me to tickle him
with my fork, and when I understand he’s
taking pleasure there: “This is disgusting!
You’re all the same”Translated by Alexis Bernaut
three meats on offer / le trio de viandes en promotion
never will I trust a ground meat container again.
I start seeing window displays of butchers,
people who force themselves to laugh, women
who whisper as they touch chipolatas. A cashier
with a new hairdo. Animals out
of their context. A regular-sized surprise. Easily
accessible images. Tubes of moisturizer
that are laughing at me as I brush my teeth.
Abbreviations, acronyms, FSB, RSA, MMA,
TNT, KKK. Butter melting in the pan,
a butter maiden stretching out in the pan.
A little meatman running after the neighbor’s
dog, tormenting my neighbor’s son by
getting inside his mouth. My sister gets fried rice.
I get meat on offer. My neighbor gets the skinny ones.
The skinny guys, the weirdos, those who hold each other
by the hand, men kissing each other on the lawn.
People who talk too loud, people on
waiting lists, people listening to spaced-out music,
spaced-out people, guys begging in the
subway, people sitting next to her, those who
look at her as she fixes her makeup, those who don’t budge
when the doors open, strikers, and not to forget
dogs that keep begging for foodTranslated by Alexis Bernaut
the 3 noises I hate the most: / les 3 bruits que je déteste le plus :
the barking of the dog who lives near the mailboxes,
my neighbor’s hawking as he stamps on the gravel
in the evening looking my way...
(yes because being town councilor, he was entrusted
With giving me the plate with the new building
It’s been three weeks now that the 4 has been gathering dust on the
windowsill, and the neighbor suffers acute anguish,
thinking that I may never come and borrow his
drill)... You mentioned three noises. One more.
Yes, I’m coming to that. There you go. In the nearby hangar: zzz, zzz,
zzz...The sound of a blade, a saw cutting
its teeth on vertebrae. The hunters’ meeting, every
Saturday in the nearby hangar. The roe deer’s
head moving in step, the cross, the black suit...
What cross?! What black suit?!... Yes, sorry...
There never was any hangar, never were any hunters,
nor Saturdays, nor hangar. Thick walls, though, the priest inside
the church, a saw in his hand. Cooing. A naked
back with two red mouths on the shoulder blades,
and two twitching wings on the floor, throbbing
and spitting in the sawdustTranslated by Alexis Bernaut
Véronique’s double life / la double-vie de Véronique
there is a program. An algorithm so powerful that
it wasn’t necessary to upload it, it set itself up.
It began living its life, as if it had always been there. It
records everything. Nothing escapes it. It answers every
question. Cameras, smartphones, videosurveillance
systems are now useless since everything
is constantly filmed. And so there cannot be any
alternate truth anymore. And so everything eventually gets out,
and when a crime is committed, it is no longer necessary to
make an investigation, just ask the algorithm. Who
attempted to strangle their baby brother? You. Who stained grandpaw’s
magazines with sex juice? You did. Who? You. Where?
Right there. How? Like this. Such is the crushing victory of
transparency that lying becomes a dead
or half-dead language which almost nobody speaks
anymore. There is a little left of it down in the
cellar. But I am like a small bush that still wants
birds in his belly, and so I go down
in the cellar, I look at lie as it writhes, I hold it inside
my hands. I put it in my mouth one last time
and before closing the door, I turn around:
“You know, it has been a beautiful story. Now, I’m going to
sleep with truth, but it’s you I like the most”Translated by Alexis Bernaut
the subduction zone / la zone de subduction
beaches have become so narrow that people
have to stand on tiptoe, almost
to a breakpoint, in balance on the big toe. The only way
out is to start dancing. And there she stands,
her legs spread, I see the leather woman, she
takes my hand. Two, three, four, she has me
turning around, and six, seven, she bends me backwards. My
body makes a 45° angle with the ground. My head upside down,
I see the sea withdrawing; I see her hands fumbling
down my back, and her nose (which is way too big and which
I try not to notice) keeps on touching
my neck, or I want to say something and I
end up with her nose in my mouth. The sea has withdrawn
so far away that you can actually see her underwear, the green lace
with the throbbing fish. And suddenly, I see the wall,
a wall of dark water, higher than the Eiffel Tower, and I
look for some place, something to take shelter.
The water wall is coming in less than a minute and I
take shelter on the couch, I see the leather edges blown
by the blast, and hang on as the wave
razes the city. The couch tilts at a 90° angle, sucked in by the wall,
it rises towards the crest of foam, and I hang on to the nose
of the couch – yes, it is a nosey couch, with a long nose
which touches my throat and sticks into my mouth
whenever I try to speakTranslated by Alexis Bernaut
christmas truce / la trêve des confiseurs
i was the center of the world which the little housemaids had
been chasing all morning. They had been pouring sweat because of me
and now they hated my guts. They had heard
about my bioluminescent penis which they
absolutely wanted to see. Yes, I had a bioluminescent penis,
like those beautiful submarine animals, and the little
red woman – she who followed me everywhere like a pet
– that little red woman was crazy about me.
She would start drooling every time she saw me.
Vapor would come out of her skin when she looked at me,
and she would whisper the fantasies she made up as she
set the table, saying: “I’m going to cook you like a
pâté en croûte. You’ll be the pâté and I’ll be the croûte.”
Such imagination. What a strange little red woman.
And then I’d suddenly realize what she just said and
I got scared since if she’d be the croûte and I’d be the pâté, who would
Be eating us? I’d ask her but she wasn’t
there anymore. The table was set. The walls were trembling. The
door would soon open, one could hear the guest walking
in the hallway. I was looking for a safe place to
hide, and I took shelter under the
silver lid. I was perfectly fitted to that dish.
Lying on my back, I was waiting for the guest to arrive and
tried not to cool down too muchTranslated by Alexis Bernaut
passion subscription / abonnement passion
you keep on getting a hold of yourself, investigating your
misdemeanors, and when you finally examine yourself seriously and
confound yourself, caught red-handed wiener in
hand, and despite all your promises to change,
your willingness to mend your ways, to pull yourself together, to get back on the
right track, you’re left with the admission that ok well unfortunately
Oops... I did it again: once again, you’ve treated yourself to a little multi-daily
pleasure bubble, and you may well vow that
enough no more, that from now on you will not let
yourself go anymore, that things are going to change, you may
well hunt yourself down through the apartment, throw all your
toys away, you may well scourge yourself, get at your own
throat and tell yourself to shut up, slap yourself with the exhibits,
that dirty lace which you are hiding under your bed,
look at yourself in the eyes and tell yourself that should you ever start again,
you’ll be hearing about yourself, you know you won’t be able
to help it, that you’re going to do it again, and you pull
your weatherwoman’s face and you say: Expect a bright weather tomorrow,
but you’ll have to wait for the clouds to clear upTranslated by Alexis Bernaut