Sylvia Plath |
The photographic chamber of the eye
records bare painted walls, while an electric light
lays the chromium nerves of plumbing raw;
such poverty assaults the ego; caught
naked in the merely actual room,
the stranger in the lavatory mirror
puts on a public grin, repeats our name
but scrupulously reflects the usual terror.
Just how guilty are we when the ceiling
reveals no cracks that can be decoded? when washbowl
maintains it has no more holy calling
than physical ablution, and the towel
dryly disclaims that fierce troll faces lurk
in its explicit folds? or when the window,
blind with steam, will not admit the dark
which shrouds our prospects in ambiguous shadow?
Twenty years ago, the familiar tub
bred an ample batch of omens; but now
water faucets spawn no danger; each crab
and octopus -- scrabbling just beyond the view,
waiting for some accidental break
in ritual, to strike -- is definitely gone;
the authentic sea denies them and will pluck
fantastic flesh down to the honest bone.
We take the plunge; under water our limbs
waver, faintly green, shuddering away
from the genuine color of skin; can our dreams
ever blur the intransigent lines which draw
the shape that shuts us in? absolute fact
intrudes even when the revolted eye
is closed; the tub exists behind our back;
its glittering surfaces are blank and true.
Yet always the ridiculous nude flanks urge
the fabrication of some cloth to cover
such starkness; accuracy must not stalk at large:
each day demands we create our whole world over,
disguising the constant horror in a coat
of many-colored fictions; we mask our past
in the green of Eden, pretend future's shining fruit
can sprout from the navel of this present waste.
In this particular tub, two knees jut up
like icebergs, while minute brown hairs rise
on arms and legs in a fringe of kelp; green soap
navigates the tidal slosh of seas
breaking on legendary beaches; in faith
we shall board our imagined ship and wildly sail
among sacred islands of the mad till death
shatters the fabulous stars and makes us real.
Dylan Thomas |
The bows glided down, and the coast
Blackened with birds took a last look
At his thrashing hair and whale-blue eye;
The trodden town rang its cobbles for luck.
Then good-bye to the fishermanned
Boat with its anchor free and fast
As a bird hooking over the sea,
High and dry by the top of the mast,
Whispered the affectionate sand
And the bulwarks of the dazzled quay.
For my sake sail, and never look back,
Said the looking land.
Sails drank the wind, and white as milk
He sped into the drinking dark;
The sun shipwrecked west on a pearl
And the moon swam out of its hulk.
Funnels and masts went by in a whirl.
Good-bye to the man on the sea-legged deck
To the gold gut that sings on his reel
To the bait that stalked out of the sack,
For we saw him throw to the swift flood
A girl alive with his hooks through her lips;
All the fishes were rayed in blood,
Said the dwindling ships.
Good-bye to chimneys and funnels,
Old wives that spin in the smoke,
He was blind to the eyes of candles
In the praying windows of waves
But heard his bait buck in the wake
And tussle in a shoal of loves.
Now cast down your rod, for the whole
Of the sea is hilly with whales,
She longs among horses and angels,
The rainbow-fish bend in her joys,
Floated the lost cathedral
Chimes of the rocked buoys.
Where the anchor rode like a gull
Miles over the moonstruck boat
A squall of birds bellowed and fell,
A cloud blew the rain from its throat;
He saw the storm smoke out to kill
With fuming bows and ram of ice,
Fire on starlight, rake Jesu's stream;
And nothing shone on the water's face
But the oil and bubble of the moon,
Plunging and piercing in his course
The lured fish under the foam
Witnessed with a kiss.
Whales in the wake like capes and Alps
Quaked the sick sea and snouted deep,
Deep the great bushed bait with raining lips
Slipped the fins of those humpbacked tons
And fled their love in a weaving dip.
Oh, Jericho was falling in their lungs!
She nipped and dived in the nick of love,
Spun on a spout like a long-legged ball
Till every beast blared down in a swerve
Till every turtle crushed from his shell
Till every bone in the rushing grave
Rose and crowed and fell!
Good luck to the hand on the rod,
There is thunder under its thumbs;
Gold gut is a lightning thread,
His fiery reel sings off its flames,
The whirled boat in the burn of his blood
Is crying from nets to knives,
Oh the shearwater birds and their boatsized brood
Oh the bulls of Biscay and their calves
Are making under the green, laid veil
The long-legged beautiful bait their wives.
Break the black news and paint on a sail
Huge weddings in the waves,
Over the wakeward-flashing spray
Over the gardens of the floor
Clash out the mounting dolphin's day,
My mast is a bell-spire,
Strike and smoothe, for my decks are drums,
Sing through the water-spoken prow
The octopus walking into her limbs
The polar eagle with his tread of snow.
From salt-lipped beak to the kick of the stern
Sing how the seal has kissed her dead!
The long, laid minute's bride drifts on
Old in her cruel bed.
Over the graveyard in the water
Mountains and galleries beneath
Nightingale and hyena
Rejoicing for that drifting death
Sing and howl through sand and anemone
Valley and sahara in a shell,
Oh all the wanting flesh his enemy
Thrown to the sea in the shell of a girl
Is old as water and plain as an eel;
Always good-bye to the long-legged bread
Scattered in the paths of his heels
For the salty birds fluttered and fed
And the tall grains foamed in their bills;
Always good-bye to the fires of the face,
For the crab-backed dead on the sea-bed rose
And scuttled over her eyes,
The blind, clawed stare is cold as sleet.
The tempter under the eyelid
Who shows to the selves asleep
Mast-high moon-white women naked
Walking in wishes and lovely for shame
Is dumb and gone with his flame of brides.
Susannah's drowned in the bearded stream
And no-one stirs at Sheba's side
But the hungry kings of the tides;
Sin who had a woman's shape
Sleeps till Silence blows on a cloud
And all the lifted waters walk and leap.
Lucifer that bird's dropping
Out of the sides of the north
Has melted away and is lost
Is always lost in her vaulted breath,
Venus lies star-struck in her wound
And the sensual ruins make
Seasons over the liquid world,
White springs in the dark.
Always good-bye, cried the voices through the shell,
Good-bye always, for the flesh is cast
And the fisherman winds his reel
With no more desire than a ghost.
Always good luck, praised the finned in the feather
Bird after dark and the laughing fish
As the sails drank up the hail of thunder
And the long-tailed lightning lit his catch.
The boat swims into the six-year weather,
A wind throws a shadow and it freezes fast.
See what the gold gut drags from under
Mountains and galleries to the crest!
See what clings to hair and skull
As the boat skims on with drinking wings!
The statues of great rain stand still,
And the flakes fall like hills.
Sing and strike his heavy haul
Toppling up the boatside in a snow of light!
His decks are drenched with miracles.
Oh miracle of fishes! The long dead bite!
Out of the urn a size of a man
Out of the room the weight of his trouble
Out of the house that holds a town
In the continent of a fossil
One by one in dust and shawl,
Dry as echoes and insect-faced,
His fathers cling to the hand of the girl
And the dead hand leads the past,
Leads them as children and as air
On to the blindly tossing tops;
The centuries throw back their hair
And the old men sing from newborn lips:
Time is bearing another son.
Kill Time! She turns in her pain!
The oak is felled in the acorn
And the hawk in the egg kills the wren.
He who blew the great fire in
And died on a hiss of flames
Or walked the earth in the evening
Counting the denials of the grains
Clings to her drifting hair, and climbs;
And he who taught their lips to sing
Weeps like the risen sun among
The liquid choirs of his tribes.
The rod bends low, divining land,
And through the sundered water crawls
A garden holding to her hand
With birds and animals
With men and women and waterfalls
Trees cool and dry in the whirlpool of ships
And stunned and still on the green, laid veil
Sand with legends in its virgin laps
And prophets loud on the burned dunes;
Insects and valleys hold her thighs hard,
Times and places grip her breast bone,
She is breaking with seasons and clouds;
Round her trailed wrist fresh water weaves,
with moving fish and rounded stones
Up and down the greater waves
A separate river breathes and runs;
Strike and sing his catch of fields
For the surge is sown with barley,
The cattle graze on the covered foam,
The hills have footed the waves away,
With wild sea fillies and soaking bridles
With salty colts and gales in their limbs
All the horses of his haul of miracles
Gallop through the arched, green farms,
Trot and gallop with gulls upon them
And thunderbolts in their manes.
O Rome and Sodom To-morrow and London
The country tide is cobbled with towns
And steeples pierce the cloud on her shoulder
And the streets that the fisherman combed
When his long-legged flesh was a wind on fire
And his loin was a hunting flame
Coil from the thoroughfares of her hair
And terribly lead him home alive
Lead her prodigal home to his terror,
The furious ox-killing house of love.
Down, down, down, under the ground,
Under the floating villages,
Turns the moon-chained and water-wound
Metropolis of fishes,
There is nothing left of the sea but its sound,
Under the earth the loud sea walks,
In deathbeds of orchards the boat dies down
And the bait is drowned among hayricks,
Land, land, land, nothing remains
Of the pacing, famous sea but its speech,
And into its talkative seven tombs
The anchor dives through the floors of a church.
Good-bye, good luck, struck the sun and the moon,
To the fisherman lost on the land.
He stands alone in the door of his home,
With his long-legged heart in his hand.
Dylan Thomas |
How shall my animal
Whose wizard shape I trace in the cavernous skull,
Vessel of abscesses and exultation's shell,
Endure burial under the spelling wall,
The invoked, shrouding veil at the cap of the face,
Who should be furious,
Drunk as a vineyard snail, flailed like an octopus,
Roaring, crawling, quarrel
With the outside weathers,
The natural circle of the discovered skies
Draw down to its weird eyes?
How shall it magnetize,
Towards the studded male in a bent, midnight blaze
That melts the lionhead's heel and horseshoe of the heart
A brute land in the cool top of the country days
To trot with a loud mate the haybeds of a mile,
Love and labour and kill
In quick, sweet, cruel light till the locked ground sprout
The black, burst sea rejoice,
The bowels turn turtle,
Claw of the crabbed veins squeeze from each red particle
The parched and raging voice?
Fishermen of mermen
Creep and harp on the tide, sinking their charmed, bent pin
With bridebait of gold bread, I with a living skein,
Tongue and ear in the thread, angle the temple-bound
Curl-locked and animal cavepools of spells and bone,
Trace out a tentacle,
Nailed with an open eye, in the bowl of wounds and weed
To clasp my fury on ground
And clap its great blood down;
Never shall beast be born to atlas the few seas
Or poise the day on a horn.
Sigh long, clay cold, lie shorn,
Cast high, stunned on gilled stone; sly scissors ground in frost
Clack through the thicket of strength, love hewn in pillars drops
With carved bird, saint, and suns the wrackspiked maiden mouth
Lops, as a bush plumed with flames, the rant of the fierce eye,
Clips short the gesture of breath.
Die in red feathers when the flying heaven's cut,
And roll with the knocked earth:
Lie dry, rest robbed, my beast.
You have kicked from a dark den, leaped up the whinnying light,
And dug your grave in my breast.
Delmore Schwartz |
"little soul, little flirting,
little perverse one
where are you off to now?
little wan one, firm one
little exposed one.
and never make fun of me again.
Now I must betray myself.
The feast of bondage and unity is near,
And none engaged in that great piety
When each bows to the other, kneels, and takes
Hand in hand, glance and glance, care and care,
None may wear masks or enigmatic clothes,
For weakness blinds the wounded face enough.
In sense, see my shocking nakedness.
I gave a girl an apple when five years old,
Saying, Will you be sorry when I am gone?
Ravenous for such courtesies, my name
Is fed like a raving fire, insatiate still.
But do not be afraid.
For I forget myself.
I do indeed
Before each genuine beauty, and I will
Forget myself before your unknown heart.
I will forget the speech my mother made
In a restaurant, trapping my father there
At dinner with his whore.
Her spoken rage
Struck down the child of seven years
With shame for all three, with pity for
The helpless harried waiter, with anger for
The diners gazing, avid, and contempt
And great disgust for every human being.
I will remember this.
My mother's rhetoric
Has charmed my various tongue, but now I know
Love's metric seeks a rhyme more pure and sure.
For thus it is that I betray myself,
Passing the terror of childhood at second hand
Through nervous, learned fingertips.
At thirteen when a little girl died,
I walked for three weeks neither alive nor dead,
And could not understand and still cannot
The adult blind to the nearness of the dead,
Or carefully ignorant of their own death.
--This sense could shadow all the time's curving fruits,
But we will taste of them the whole night long,
Forgetting no twelfth night, no fete of June,
But in the daylight knowing our nothingness.
Let Freud and Marx be wedding guests indeed!
Let them mark out masks that face us there,
For of all anguish, weakness, loss and failure,
No form is cruel as self-deception, none
Shows day-by-day a bad dream long lived
And unbroken like the lies
We tell each other because we are rich or poor.
Though from the general guilt not free
We can keep honor by being poor.
The waste, the evil, the abomination
the perfect stars persist
Small in the guilty night,
and Mozart shows
The irreducible incorruptible good
Risen past birth and death, though he is dead.
Hope, like a face reflected on the windowpane,
Remote and dim, fosters a myth or dream,
And in that dream, I speak, I summon all
Who are our friends somehow and thus I say:
"Bid the jewellers come with monocles,
Exclaiming, Pure! Intrinsic! Final!
Summon the children eating ice cream
To speak the chill thrill of immediacy.
Call for the acrobats who tumble
The ecstasy of the somersault.
Bid the self-sufficient stars be piercing
In the sublime and inexhaustible blue.
"Bring a mathematician, there is much to count,
The unending continuum of my attention:
Infinity will hurry his multiplied voice!
Bring the poised impeccable diver,
Summon the skater, precise in figure,
He knows the peril of circumstance,
The risk of movement and the hard ground.
Summon the florist! And the tobacconist!
All who have known a plant-like beauty:
Summon the charming bird for ignorant song.
"You, Athena, with your tired beauty,
Will you give me away? For you must come
In a bathing suit with that white owl
Whom, as I walk, I will hold in my hand.
You too, Crusoe, to utter the emotion
Of finding Friday, no longer alone;
You too, Chaplin, muse of the curbstone,
Mummer of hope, you understand!"
But this is fantastic and pitiful,
And no one comes, none will, we are alone,
And what is possible is my own voice,
Speaking its wish, despite its lasting fear;
Speaking of its hope, its promise and its fear,
The voice drunk with itself and rapt in fear,
Rhetoric and hope, and always fear:
"For fifty-six or for a thousand years,
I will live with you and be your friend,
And what your body and what your spirit bears
I will like my own body cure and tend.
But you are heavy and my body's weight
Is great and heavy: when I carry you
I lift upon my back time like a fate
Near as my heart, dark when I marry you.
"The voice's promise is easy, and hope
Is drunk, and wanton, and unwilled;
In time's quicksilver, where our desires grope,
The dream is warped or monstrously fulfilled,
In this sense, listen, listen, and draw near:
Love is inexhaustible and full of fear.
This life is endless and my eyes are tired,
So that, again and again, I touch a chair,
Or go to the window, press my face
Against it, hoping with substantial touch,
Colorful sight, or turning things to gain once more
The look of actuality, the certainty
Of those who run down stairs and drive a car.
Then let us be each other's truth, let us
Affirm the other's self, and be
The other's audience, the other's state,
Each to the other his sonorous fame.
Now you will be afraid, when, waking up,
Before familiar morning, by my mute side
Wan and abandoned then, when, waking up,
You see the lion or lamb upon my face
Or see the daemon breathing heavily
His sense of ignorance, his wish to die,
For I am nothing because my circus self
Divides its love a million times.
I am the octopus in love with God,
For thus is my desire inconclusible,
Until my mind, deranged in swimming tubes,
Issues its own darkness, clutching seas
---O God of my perfect ignorance,
Bring the New Year to my only sister soon,
Take from me strength and power to bless her head,
Give her the magnitude of secular trust,
Until she turns to me in her troubled sleep,
Seeing me in my wish, free from self-wrongs.
Henry Lawson |
We must suffer, husband and father, we must suffer, daughter and son,
For the wrong we have taken part in and the wrong that we have seen done.
Let the bride of frivolous fashion, and of ease, be ashamed and dumb,
For I tell you the nations shall rule us who have let their children come!
How shall Australia escape it – we in the South and alone
Who have taken the sword for no right of England and none of our own?
(Can we bring back the husbands and fathers, can we bring the lovers and sons?
From the Dead to the homes we have ruined with the fire of our murdering guns?)
Who shall aid and protect us when the blood-streaked dawn we meet?
Will England, the hated of nations, whose existence depends on her fleet?
Who, because of the deer-parks and game-runs where her wheat-fields and pastures should be,
Must bring food for her herded thousands and shepherd it over the sea?
The beak of the British Octopus, or the Bosses within our reach
Who spend the hot days on the Mountains or summer at Manly Beach!
The thousands of paltry swindlers who are fathoms beneath our scorn –
Or the army of brave sons grown from the children who should have been born!
The wealth you have won has been wasted on trips to the English Rome,
On costly costumes from Paris, and titles and gewgaws from "home".
Shall a knighthood frighten Asia when she comes with the hate of hell?
Will the motor-launch race the torpedo, or the motor-car outspeed the shell?
Keep the wealth you have won from the cities, spend the wealth you have won on the land,
Save the floods that run into the ocean – save the floods that sink into the sand!
Make farms fit to live on, build workshops and technical schools for your sons;
Keep the wealth of the land in Australia – make your own cloth, machines, and guns!
Clear out the Calico Jimmy, the ******, the Chow, and his pals;
Be your foreword for years: Irrigation.
Make a network of lakes and canals!
See that your daughters have children, and see that Australia is home,
And so be prepared, a strong nation, for the storm that most surely must come.
Ogden Nash |
Tell me, O Octopus, I begs
Is those things arms, or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.
Delmore Schwartz |
"Poet and veteran of childhood, look!
See in me the obscene, for you have love,
For you have hatred, you, you must be judge,
Deliver judgement, Delmore Schwartz.
Well-known wishes have been to war,
The vicious mouth has chewed the vine.
The patient crab beneath the shirt
Has charmed such interests as Indies meant.
For I have walked within and seen each sea,
The fish that flies, the broken burning bird,
Born again, beginning again, my breast!
Purple with persons like a tragic play.
For I have flown the cloud and fallen down,
Plucked Venus, sneering at her moan.
I took the train that takes away remorse;
I cast down every king like Socrates.
I knocked each nut to find the meat;
A worm was there and not a mint.
Metaphysicians could have told me this,
But each learns for himself, as in the kiss.
Polonius I poked, not him
To whom aspires spire and hymn,
Who succors children and the very poor;
I pierced the pompous Premier, not Jesus Christ,
I picked Polonius and Moby Dick,
the ego bloomed into an octopus.
Now come I to the exhausted West at last;
I know my vanity, my nothingness,
now I float will-less in despair's dead sea,
Every man my enemy.
Spontaneous, I have too much to say,
And what I say will no one not old see:
If we could love one another, it would be well.
But as it is, I am sorry for the whole world, myself
My heart is full of memory and desire, and in
its last nervousness, there is pity for those I have
touched, but only hatred and contempt for myself.
Andrei Voznesensky |
I hate you, rubber souls, you seem
to stretch to fit any regime.
They'll give a yawning smile, stretched wide,
and, like an octopus, they'll draw you tight.
A rubber man is an elusive rogue:
a fist gets sucked into the bog.
The rubber editor is scared of script,
the author is bogged down in it.
A rubber office I used to know
where "yes" was stretched to courteous "no".
I pity you, elastic crank,
as if erased, your past is blank.
You have erased many a passion, many a thought,
but you were happy and excited, were you not?.
Above the waist you are a cowardly man,
an ace of spade, and an unlucky one.
© Copyright Alec Vagapov's translation
Guillaume Apollinaire |
In the end you are tired of this ancient world
Shepherd oh Eiffel Tower the herd of bridges is bleating this morning
You've had enough of living in Greek and Roman antiquity
Here even the cars look antique
Only religion has stayed new religion
Has stayed simple like the hangars at Port-Aviation
You alone in Europe are not ancient oh Christianity
The most modern European is you Pope Pius X
And shame keeps you whom the windows are watching
From entering a church and going to confession this morning
You read the flyers catalogues posters that shout out
There's the morning's poetry and as for prose there are the newspapers
There are 25 cent tabloids full of crimes
Celebrity items and a thousand different headlines
This morning I saw a pretty street whose name I forget
New and clean it was the sun's herald
Executives workers and beautiful stenos
Cross it four times a day from Monday morning to Saturday evening
In the morning the siren moans three times
An angry bell barks at noon
The inscriptions on the signs and walls
The billboards the notices squawk like parrots
I love the charm of this industrial street
In Paris between the Rue Aumont-Thiéville and the Avenue des Ternes
There's the young street and you're still just a little boy
Your mother dresses you only in blue and white
You're very pious and along with your oldest friend René Dalize
You like nothing better than the rituals of the Church
It is nine o'clock the gas is low and blue you sneak out of the dormitory
You pray all night in the school's chapel
While in eternal adorable amethyst depths
The flaming glory of Christ revolves forever
It's the beautiful lily we all cultivate
It's the torch with red hair the wind can't blow out
It's the pale rosy son of the grieving mother
It's the tree always leafy with prayers
It's the paired gallows of honor and eternity
It's the star with six branches
It's God who dies on Friday and comes back to life on Sunday
It's Christ who climbs to the sky better than any pilot
He holds the world record for altitude
Apple Christ of the eye
Twentieth pupil of the centuries he knows how to do it
And changed into a bird this century like Jesus climbs into the air
Devils in their depths raise their heads to look at him
They say he's copying Simon Magus in Judea
They shout if he's so good at flying let's call him a fugitive
Angels gyre around the handsome gymnast
Icarus Enoch Elijah Apollonius of Tyana
Hover around the first airplane
They scatter sometimes to let the ones carrying the Eucharist pass
Those priests that are forever ascending carrying the host
Finally the plane lands without folding its wings
And the sky is full of millions of swallows
Crows falcons owls come in full flight
Ibises flamingos storks come from Africa
The Roc Bird made famous by storytellers and poets
Soars holding in its claws Adam's skull the first head
The eagle swoops screaming from the horizon
And from America the little hummingbird comes
From China the long agile peehees have come
They have only one wing and fly in pairs
Now here's the dove immaculate spirit
Escorted by the lyre-bird and the spotted peacock
The phoenix that self-engendering pyre
For an instant hides all with its burning ash
Sirens leaving the dangerous straits
Arrive singing beautifully all three
And all eagle phoenix peehees from China
Hang out with the flying Machine
Now you're walking in Paris all alone in the crowd
Herds of buses amble by you mooing
The anguish of love tightens your throat
As if you were never going to be loved again
If you lived in the old days you would enter a monastery
You are ashamed when you catch yourself saying a prayer
You make fun of yourself and your laughter crackles like the fire of Hell
The sparks of your laughter gild the abyss of your life
It is a painting hung in a dark museum
And sometimes you go look at it close up
Today you're walking in Paris the women have turned blood-red
It was and I wish I didn't remember it was at the waning of beauty
Surrounded by fervent flames Our Lady looked at me in Chartres
The blood of your Sacred Heart drenched me in Montmartre
I am sick from hearing blissful phrases
The love I suffer from is a shameful sickness
And the image that possesses you makes you survive in insomnia and anguish
It is always near you this image that passes
Now you're on the shores of the Mediterranean
Under the lemon trees that are in flower all year long
You go boating with some friends
One is from Nice there's one from Menton and two from La Turbie
We look with dread at the octopus of the deep
And among the seaweed fish are swimming symbols of the Savior
You are in the garden of an inn just outside of Prague
You feel so happy a rose is on the table
And you observe instead of writing your story in prose
The Japanese beetle sleeping in the heart of the rose
Terrified you see yourself drawn in the agates of Saint Vitus
You were sad enough to die the day you saw yourself
You look like Lazarus thrown into a panic by the daylight
The hands on the clock in the Jewish district go counter-clockwise
And you too are going slowly backwards in your life
Climbing up to Hradcany and listening at night
To Czech songs being sung in taverns
Here you are in Marseilles in the middle of watermelons
Here you are in Coblenz at the Giant Hotel
Here you are in Rome sitting under a Japanese medlar tree
Here you are in Amsterdam with a young woman you think is beautiful she is ugly
She is engaged to a student from Leyden
There they rent rooms in Latin Cubicula Locanda
I remember I spent three days there and just as many in Gouda
You are in Paris getting interrogated
They're arresting you like a criminal
You made some miserable and happy journeys
Before you became aware of lies and of age
You suffered from love at twenty and at thirty
I've lived like a madman and I've wasted my time
You don't dare look at your hands anymore and all the time I want to cry
Over you over the women I love over everything that's terrified you
Your tear-filled eyes watch the poor emigrants
They believe in God they pray the women breast-feed the children
They fill the waiting-room at the St.
Lazaire station with their smell
They have faith in their star like the Magi
They hope to earn money in Argentina
And go back to their country after making their fortune
One family is carrying a red eiderdown the way you carry your heart
The eiderdown and our dreams are equally unreal
Some of these emigrants stay here and put up at the
Rue des Rosiers or the Rue des Ecouffes in hovels
I've seen them often at night they're out for a breath of air in the street
And like chess pieces they rarely move
They are mostly Jews the wives wearing wigs
Sit still bloodless at the back of store-fronts
You're standing in front of the counter at a sleazy bar
You're having coffee for two sous with the down-and-out
At night you're in a big restaurant
These women aren't mean but they do have their troubles
All of them even the ugliest has made her lover suffer
She is a Jersey policeman's daughter
Her hands that I hadn't seen are hard and chapped
I feel immense pity for the scars on her belly
I humble my mouth now to a poor hooker with a horrible laugh
You are alone morning is approaching
Milkmen clink their cans in the streets
Night withdraws like a half-caste beauty
Ferdine the false or thoughtful Leah
And you drink this alcohol burning like your life
Your life that you drink like an eau-de-vie
You walk towards Auteuil you want to go home on foot
To sleep surrounded by your fetishes from the South Seas and from Guinea
They are Christs in another form and from a different creed
They are lower Christs of dim expectations
Sun neck cut
from Alcools, 1913
Translation copyright Charlotte Mandell