as I’m Painting a Garden for St John’s Millbrook

and I’m writing today
now that the final attack has been launched
the towers burning licking the clouds
and on St John’s Millbrook the soot drifting down black
from what once was heaven
and I’m painting black as soot a garden
for there are no gardens in St John’s Millbrook


and now: even blue nigger Robert Johnson
can’t get rid of his soul
for the devil
(having acquired everything else already)
hasn’t been for a long time to the crossroads of St John’s Millbrook
where Quasimodo’s hump of soft leather light ochre limps
and hops between the rows of steel carriages,
he’s the last of the kamikazes.
(10,000 virgins have been promised but not one to him).
get off, you freak, go show your hump someplace else
go show your hump to your own blushing bride,
we’ll kick your ass
out of St John’s Millbrook.


here no stray dogs.
the dogs are masked here:
tight belts against steel blue trousers.
no flowers bloom in St John’s Millbrook.
only sanguine tattoos on sanguine hands
and the ceaseless rustle of the counted money
the paper flowers of St John’s Millbrook
there’s nothing that’s not for sale in St John’s Millbrook.
a lead canal.
mine de plomb.
zinc clouds.


beggar women black-veiled mumble baleful prayers,
but no angels in St John’s Millbrook
to hear them.
we used to be shepherds, sir, we’re in a spot now, sir,
we lay out our wives to beg, sir, better that than….


deep under the tarmac the Black Ponds unstirred.


the Styx runs through St John’s Millbrook,
but Dante was never here.
and what can a shepherd be looking for here?
huge trucks take the herds to the slaughtering blocks outside the walls of St John’s Millbrook.
as many as 10,000 bleating sheep in a day, sir,
10,000 virgins, 10,000 sheep.

there’s not a single spark of mercy in St John’s Millbrook.

and I’m painting black a garden for the shepherds of St John’s Millbrook.


niggers hollering quacking husky horny beasts ducks.
Belgium butchered 11 million of them,
so what?
the king’s chambers filled with dried ears, smoked hands,
so what?
Lumumba’s still alive trunk and head (the rest of the body had already been cut off) were slowly
pierced with a bayonet
he literally had it pushed down his throat
(he was invulnerable to bullets, wasn’t he …)
the king, young white and virgin, prayed for his soul for a very long while.
there are no gardens of grace in St John’s Millbrook.
where cocks crow three times a day.
morning light slumbering dull grey no cloud moving, the night simply spilling over the day.


Demmahom, the Rat King, crawling in the sewers, Grey Wolves from Izmir pissing against the gates of St John’s Millbrook.
“From the cruel Turks, deliver us, Lord”, the soldiers in the Great War prayed while rotting in the trenches of Flanders Fields.


and Herr Himmler, the staunchest among the faithful,
wanders about, in search of sugar gas and camps.
nobody can see him, his riding boots glimmer heimlich,
but he’s invisible, concealed under Yahweh’s yarmulke.
there’s no chaff in St John’s Millbrook.
neither wheat nor chaff, but crowing of many cocks,
three times thrice a day.
treason is king here, treason is honey on the tongue.
treason is the rule.
and I’m painting black olives the garden of treason for St John’s Millbrook.


Mary Magdalen paints her toenails christ-red and tickles her nipples rigid;
once Goya painted her luminous black eyes, but now he just etches the speed of bullets.
she’s making herself up for the fiesta tonight, more beautiful than ever.
Golgotha is no longer far off, it has been flattened, anyway,
just like everything in St John’s Millbrook.
they thrust a spear between His ribs, some pus and blood oozed out, not much though.
but there are no gardens, no, I’m painting black, I’m tracing out gardens in wet paint, for no pond, no brook, no clear liquid ever waters St John’s Millbrook.


Velazquez here recruits dwarfs and kitchen maids for Philip IV.
he rings them with gold and bows and whispers in their mouths of shadows: “Holy Mother, the fruit of Thy womb I’m painting black.”
watch him walking there, proud as punch,
his Spanish circus parade leading.
the cross of Santiago he’s got stitched on his breast, rightly so!
a prince, yes, but his coat is dragging in the dust of St John’s Millbrook.


no Messiah ever passed by in St John’s Millbrook.
for there are no hares in St John’s Millbrook.
only Joseph Beuys peddling combs.
his skull twisted, his time has passed.
the Luftwaffe, the fat and the felt, not to mention the Tartars.
one’s own fat is prohibited in St John’s Millbrook.
only lies are possible, all lies.
and for stories, indeed, for stories there is no time.


you can walk by Mussolini’s ice-cream cart “Benito’s Gelati”.
long has it been long since women got wet at the sound of his voice: fragola! limone! cioccolato!
cone or wafer…
oh, man, get lost will you!
there are no flavours in St John’s Millbrook.
only the sweet taste of sin.


and Pol Pot smoking big joints all by himself,
he can no longer trust his own brothers, not number 1, not number 2, …
he has long lost count.
and as stoned as a newt, all by himself, he overloads his cart,
too many corpses piled like so many flat loaves of bread.
the wheels sinking deeper and deeper.
there is much mud on the tarmac in St John’s Millbrook.


and Jerry Lee Lewis is going leopard hunting,
but there haven’t been any leopards in St John’s Millbrook for a long time, at best some cats with leprous little snouts and knotty knob tails.
and Mobutu’s cap floating on the Congo river,
ho, man ! easy, easy! but, that’s a long way from here!
floating, pining for niggerblood, far from St John’s Millbrook.


trailing the scent, the dogs bleated, the sheep barked, and St John’s opium den was closed down and all the Chinese hanged themselves by their pigtails,
and so there are no more Chinese left in St John’s Millbrook.
no sun rises above the lead canal.
the East is far away, simply rubbed out of heaven.
however, red here is bullshit and yellow is Van Gogh, long forgotten, no nigger here is blue enough, not much colour has been left in St John’s Millbrook.
and black I’m painting, yes, a garden, yes, yes.


and in search I am of Klaus Barbie and his bullwhips.
he drinks mint tea here on the corner in the ‘Ghetto’ bar and plays dirty games with his dolls.
there are a load of dolls in St John’s Millbrook, nothing but dolls.
their cunts as bald as baby slits.


and our dirge we sing in St John’s Millbrook.
now the Istanbul wolves are getting Kurdish randy, but no gates are opening. they’re bolted with peacock feathers and Trotsky is the doorman. smugly stroking his ice pick, neatly planted in his fontanel. he is alone now and he even feels fine in St John’s Millbrook. he used to be the wrath of God and to eat czar meat, but now, tired of the mob he plays the trumpet violin and begs like a gypsy, devious, his chin proudly in the air, and he counts the blind
as the rattle white sticks on the cobblestones in the alleys of St John’s Millbrook.


and Eva Braun is smoking blue cigarettes and hanging little aureoles on Dolphie’s nose.
she lives in a little oven, trendily decorated, for trends there are aplenty in St John’s Millbrook.
and one of these circumcised mocha boys eats her pussy day and night, in Nacht und Nebel her eyes get scorched.
beautifully – stylishly – she tilts her pelvis and lets her stiletto fingers run through his frizzy hair.
and black I’m painting the boy’s blood, a crown in St John’s Millbrook.


mongol George ‘double you’ Bush, squinting like a mole, digs his spurs into his rocking horse, rock, rock, bang ! bang !
the holy war must go on and he throws paper fighter jets at the mosques of St John’s Millbrook.
he’s so proud to be an American,
clenching his tiny fists furiously.
he wants to win, you bet your sweet ass. No, no peace, no tranquillity, but who knows, he may end up in the asylum,

securely stored among the freaks of St John’s Millbrook.

and for him I’m painting the asylum in the black garden of St John’s Millbrook.


and where the tarmac has collapsed in the road surface they fall into these big black potholes,
the long lines of Pieter Breughel the Elder’s blind, hand on shoulder, staggering, stumbling, grumbling,
for there are neither ditches, nor drains nor gardens in St John’s Millbrook,
just big potholes in the tarmac.
and you, darling, with those enormous carnation eyes of yours, you look in them and you see in them: the guts, the black guts of St John’s Millbrook,
and you think: my God, what fruit will my children ever harvest from this soil?


and along in the line Guido Gezelle shambles, blind as a bat now, he hasn’t been a priest for a long time.
ages ago he used to be a great poet, now he’s reduced to selling diamonds in St John’s Millbrook, for words he’s long forgotten.
he breeds snails in the Black Ponds, hiding all his secrets in them.
for indeed how does he turn snails into diamonds in the Black Ponds under the tarmac of St John’s Millbrook?


and the Citizens of Calais walk around as tourists, smiling sheepishly and looking around bashfully, lost idiots, hand in hand, their ropes a bit loosely around their necks, but the gallows have long disappeared
from St John’s Millbrook.
and they don’t know where to go, what – the hell – there is to see, let alone to do in St John’s Millbrook.
in the market they buy animal corn, plastic sandals, and one the Moorish alphabet in braille; but nobody gives a damn.
only the dealers in Ribaucourt look up briefly, but no use, for here your rope doesn’t stretch to a shot.


and there she goes, Jeanne Duval, against bad weather
rubbing her gorgeous dark cat body against the façades;
on her way she is to her green-haired poet – beautifully tuned –
he’s a creep, she’s his muse.
her jewels clink fake, but her slit she perfumes with a mix of opium and lavender, which hovers heavily behind her,
tick tick tick tick her little gilded heels go,
a catwalk across the pattering cobblestones of St John’s Mill brook.
she makes men lose their heads, they squint at her and fiddle with their thing under their djellabas.
one day, they’ll take her on, to them she’s the devil incarnate,
one day, waving about their Holy Book, they’ll stick 10,000 stilettos in her and there will be no place to bury her beauty pierced to pieces, for there are no gardens in St John’s Millbrook, not even a bit of earth to dig a pit for her.
so I’m painting her a black hole in a black garden in St John’s Millbrook.


and Tough Stan on his spidery legs always retching with that protruding adam’s apple of his, always in that little leather jacket and those cowboy boots too;
the man who painted more meticulously than all his shadows, more meticulously and faster;
the man who lived on his own bile and sprayed everyone with it, well, he made but few friends here in St John’s Millbrook. they hated his guts and the more he badgered them, the more effort they put into crossing him, knocking up the cross they were going to nail him to.
and thus it came to pass that the little pope gave the sign – tiny thumb down –,
but Tough Stan outfoxed them, he loaded a sawn-off shotgun with wild boar shot and pumped it into his mouth.
just like Goya’s they never found his head here in St John’s Millbrook.
they did find a last painting : Interior in blood,
some Chardin, some Soutine, some Paul McCarthy.
from then on I’ve had to paint for two, and each day I think of Tough Stan and I curse the scum that finished him off.

perhaps I’ll get them some day, in my turn.

I did love Tough Stan, oh, man, drop it!
he was a painter and so am I and that’s how it was…


and who doesn’t dream of giving one of those little popes a little red hole between his eyes.
those who don’t want to do it themselves will readily find a hired gun here in St John’s Millbrook.
no mess, cleanly executed, professionally, that’s what we’re going for in St John’s Millbrook.
but remember always: everything is paid cash in St John’s Millbrook.
but the garden is left for me to paint, and alone, all alone.


nothing is how you see it in St John’s Millbrook.
so, weigh your trust well, it’s little good to you.
all is hidden here.
but it is enough to look and there you go…
and, darling, don’t try to find what’s not there. here it’ll do with nothing and with nothing
(but wet paint) I’m painting black: gardens for St John’s Millbrook.
with nothing that is not there, too much, well yes, too…


* * *




Published as:

“as I’m Painting a Garden for St John’s Millbrook.” In Philippe Vandenberg: Black a Garden for St. John’s Millbrook, 145-155. Ghent: Croxhapox, 2008.

Originally published as:


pijl rechts
Philippe Vandenberg