I was not a Man like You | 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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