To F. T. Marinetti
the soul of our flame

At the center of the main square
of the town,
the iron cage has been placed,
with the arsonist in it.
He will stay there three days
so that everyone can see him.
Everyone’s gathering around
the enormous iron bars,
all day long,
hundreds of people.

— Look at where they’ve stuck him!
— He looks like a parrot coalman.
— And where were they supposed to put him?
— In prison for sure.
— He deserves to make this good impression!
— Why didn’t you prepare him
a luxury apartment,
he would have burned that down too!
— But he shouldn’t be in this cage either!
— They’ll make him die of rage!
— Die! He takes things hard!
— He’s calmer than we are!
— I say he’s having fun.
— But his family?
— Who knows where in the world he came from!
— This riff-raff doesn’t have a family!
— Sure, it roams around!
— No doubt he came straight out of hell.
— Poor devil!
— You even feel sorry for him?
You wouldn’t say that
if he’d burned down your house.
— He burned down yours?
— If he didn’t
it was damn close.
He’s burned down half the world,
this joker!
— At least, cowards, don’t spit on him,
he is a living creature after all!
— But look how quiet he is!
— He’s not scared!
— I would be dying of shame!
— Like that in the middle of this humiliation!
— For three days!
— To the pillory!
— My God what an unwholesome face!
— What a criminal expression!
— If he wasn’t in a cage
I’d get out of here!
— What if he suddenly tried to run away?
— How could he?
— You think that cage is strong enough?
— What if he escaped!
— Couldn’t he squeeze through the bars?
These jokers know how to contort themselves
in all sorts of ways!
— Today’s a good day for the police!
— If they didn’t hurry up and catch him,
he’d have sent us all up in smoke!
— The pillory! He deserves a lot more!
— When they interrogated him,
he answered with a laugh
that he burns for pleasure.
— Oh God what gall!
— I can’t believe these people!
— I’d love to tear him to bits.
— Throw him in the moat!
— I want to spit on him
— They should burn him a bit too,
it would help him laugh!
— It’s what he deserves!
— When they put him in prison, he’ll escape,
he’s so clever!
— Worse than a weasel!
— Look at the eyes he’s got on him!
— Why not throw him down a well?
— In the Commune’s cistern!
— And there are people
who feel sorry for him.
— You have to have a bad conscience to feel sorry
for this kind!

Make way! Make way! Make way! Trash! Tiny beings
who stink of garbage,
fetid herd!
Swallow up
all of your obscene gossip, and may it choke you!
Make way! I am the poet!
I come from afar,
I’ve traveled all the world
to come and seek
the creature I must sing! Kneel, miserable rabble!
Men who are so fearful of fire, poor little straw beings! Down on your knees!
I am the priest,
this cage is the altar,
that man is the Lord!

You are the Lord
to whom I address
with all the devotion
of my heart,
this most gentle prayer.
To you, gentle creature,
I reach out panting, exhausted,
I’ve crossed ravines of thorns,
I’ve climbed over walls!
I will free you!
No one move, I said!
Keep your head down,
beat your breast hard,
this is the confiteor
of my ass!
They’ve covered you with insults
and spit,
this insidious swarm
of tiny cowards.
And it’s natural that you let yourself
be tied up by them:
these disgusting and lazy insects
are livid with evil cleverness,
in their veins there runs
a poisonous green blood.
And you, great soul,
could not imagine
the tiny well they had prepared for you,
no wonder you fell in.
I’ve come to free you!
No one move!
I look you in the eyes
to feel warmer.

Crouching under your coat
you have no words,
like the flame: color, and heat!
And that black coat,
these stolid men threw it over you,
didn’t they,
so that we couldn’t see that you’re all red?
Or did you throw it on yourself,
to hide just a bit
of your fiery soul?
What do you spy at the horizon?
You see a spark rising?
Tell me, haven’t you managed to smuggle in
the last match?
I can read it in your eyes!
Your eyes let off sparks,
by the hundreds, by the hundreds, by the thousands!
You can with your eyes
burn the whole world!
Did the sun create you,
you who can burn with a mere gaze?
[ .. .]
And you, petrified with fear,
pray, pray in low voices,
secret prayers.
I too, you know, am an arsonist,
a poor arsonist who cannot burn,
and I am in prison like you.
I am poet who renders homage to you,
as a poor failed arsonist,
a poets’ arsonist.
Every line I write is a conflagration.
Oh! If you could see when I am writing!
I think I see the flames,
I feel the gusts, boiling
caresses on my face.
What I write is
not a true conflagration,
fraudulently not true.
Everything has its police,
even poetry.
[ .. .]
In the secret of my rooms
I pace dressed in red,
and look at myself in an old mirror,
in heady intoxication
as though I were a flame,
a poor flame that awaits . . .
your reflection!
Outside I dress in gray,
colorlessly that is,
there’s a police for clothes too,
same as for words.
And the one for fire
is tremendous, ruthless,
men have a deathly fear of flames,
serious men,
and so they invented firemen.

You look at me, unspeaking,
you do not speak,
yet your eyes tell me:
the man who talks does little.
But I trust you!
I’m opening the cage!
Look at them, look at them run away!
They’ve lost their minds in horror,
they’re crazed with fear.
You can go, run, run,
he’ll catch up.
One of these mornings,
stepping out of my house,
among the usual shacks,
I won’t see
these worm-eaten relics,
so jealously kept
for so long!
I won’t see them anymore!
I’ll cry for joy!
You’ve come by!
And then I’ll feel a tug at my clothes,
and the flames will burn
beneath my house . . .
I’ll scream, I’ll exult,
you’ll have given me life!
I am flame that awaits you!
Go on, pass through, my brother, rush to warm
the frozen carcass
of this decrepit world!