Friday, October 20, 2006

PAUVRE ARTHUR



Tantalizing as the fugitive odor
of flowers you smell but don't see,
he stuck his tongue out at you up ahead
on the road you only get to run once.

Already you've forgotten the readymade shack
where you found him, laundered his clothes
while he slept, touched him gently
and he didn't even notice, the dunce!

He was always too drunk to assay
the walls shielding your desire, hands
propping head on a table-top, his pout
a caress to put serving-girls at ease.

You know you'll never make him out:
a gifted idiot enchanted by vocabulary,
eyes of cornflower blue, wide and dazed,
wiry hair waving like a flame in the breeze.

A providential haywagon's coming your way,
shambling through the Proven├žal fields,
dew radiant at dawn. You start, amazed
he's beside you, crumpled like a spent rind.

It's your chance to escape, to shrug off
a few clinging images: his bloody razor,
dirty nails, open mouth oozing purple drool,
the savage glance that lacerates the heart.

Go through his pockets before you depart,
regard the curios he saved from hell: paper boat,
ocarina, dead louse, the scarf of mauve,
chartreuse and indigo that surged at his throat.

The time has come to leave him behind,
his shadow will overtake you if you tarry,
though you know the magic spite of all he said
binds you to him like the briar to the rose.

It's no use. You must carry him upon your back
like a farmer shouldering autumn's yield,
trudging roads hot as the Inferno's harsh sands,
knave and duke, magistrate and fool.
--DB, 1997

For Rimbaud's birthday (Oct. 20, 1854)

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