‘Selected Catastrophies’ from Sinclair Beiles’s Sacred Fix | Straight Up

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“Selected Catastrophies” — subtitled “In the Cavern of the Damned” — is the fourth section of a book of poems by the incandescent South African poet Sinclair Beiles, entitled Sacred Fix. It was edited by Gerard Bellaart and published in 1975 by Cold Turkey Press in a limited first edition of 250 copies. This poem comes fifth in the section. Its prescience and despair are striking, don’t you think?

I will not support you
when you shed your hideous electronic disguises
and stagger through the alleyways of oblivion
looking for shelter. 
o society you betrayed me
with your promises of paradise
and then I found you out and kept to myself,
and now the whole world has found you out
and is banging at your deserted edifices
demanding new lives.
society! you have left a wake of perplexity behind you.
your experts, disillusioned, are casting themselves into the sea.
the whole damned pantomime has come to an end
and people are searching for themselves
in the rubbish dumps . . . 
which destroyed souls
and implanted a supersoul
an inferior mass soul
has lost all its energy
and fled. society, if you stagger by me
carrying your disguises under your arm
I will trip you up and laugh.  
Sinclair Beiles
Sinclair Beiles (1930-2000)

Here is the fourth poem in that section. It illuminates Beiles’s desperate state of mind when he was writing these poems.

there is a way of committing suicide
called poetry
there is a way of taking a knife
and carving from the infinite nothingness of the sky
a solitary cell
in which one spends a lifetime pacing about
occasionally shouting messages
through the barred cell window
at different passers by.
there is a way of trying to create a universe
with all its constellations
from the view of people scurrying by
in the rain with their umbrellas up,
a way of ruling a nation of shadows.
there is a way of imagining
one possesses all the secrets of the soul
and this gift will provide one with freedom,
a way of imagining all the sights
not yet photographed by the travel agencies
there is a way of believing
one has special dreams . . .

With thanks to Gerard Bellaart who sent me images of the original mimeographed version of “Selected Catastrophes.”

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