Poems

-POEMS-


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My Bohemian Existence

Ma Bohème

book

I went off

with my hands in my torn coat pockets;

my overcoat too was becoming ideal;

I travelled beneath the sky,

Muse! and I was your vassal;

Oh dear me! what marvellous loves

I dreamed of!

My only pair of breeches

had a big hole in them. —

Stragazing Tom Thumb,

I sowed my rhymes along the way.

My tavern was at the Sign of the Great Bear.

— My stars in the sky rustled softly.

 

And I listened to them, sitting on the road-sides

on those pleasant September evenings

while I felt drops of dew on my forehead

like vigorous wine; and while,

rhyming among the fantastical shadows,

I plucked the strings of a lyre

the elastics of my tattered boots,

one foot close to my heart!

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Faun’s Head

Tête de faune

book

Among the foliage, green casket flecked with gold;

in the uncertain foliage that blossoms

with gorgeous flowers where sleeps the kiss,

vivid, and bursting through the sumptuous tapestry,

 

a startled faun shows his two eyes

and bites the crimson flowers with his white teeth.

Stained and ensanguined like mellow wine,

his mouth bursts out in laughter beneath the branches.

 

And when he has fled – like a squirrel –

his laughter still vibrates on every leaf,

and you can see, startled by a bullfinch,

the Golden Kiss of the Wood,

gathering itself together again.

1871

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Those Who Sit

Les Assis

book

Dark with knobbed growths,

peppered with pock-marks like hail,

their eyes ringed with green,

their swollen fingers clenched on their thigh-bones,

their skulls caked with indeterminate crusts

like the leprous growths on old walls;

 

in amorous seizures they have grafted

their weird bone structures

to the great dark skeletons of their chairs;

their feet are entwined, morning and evening,

on the rickety rails!

 

These old men have always been one flesh with their seats,

feeling bright suns drying their skins to the texture of calico,

or else, looking at the window-panes

where the snow is turning grey,

shivering with the painful shiver of the toad.

 

And their Seats are kind to them;

coloured brown with age, the straw yields

to the angularities of their buttocks;

the spirit of ancient suns lights up,

bound in these braids of ears in which the corn fermented.

 

And the Seated Ones, knees drawn up to their teeth,

green pianists whose ten fingers keep drumming under their seats,

listen to the tapping of each other’s melancholy barcolles;

and their heads nod back and forth as in the act of love.

 

-Oh don’t make them get up! It’s a catastrophe!

They rear up like growling tom-cats when struck,

slowly spreading their shoulders… What rage!

Their trousers puff out at their swelling backsides.

 

And you listen to them as they bump

their bald head is against the dark walls,

stamping and stamping with their crooked feet;

and their coat-buttons are the eyes of wild beasts

which fix yours from the end of the corridors!

 

And then they have an invisible weapon which can kill:

returning, their eyes seep the black poison

with which the beaten bitch’s eye is charged,

and you sweat, trapped in the horrible funnel.

 

Reseated, their fists retreating into soiled cuffs,

they think about those that have made them

get up and, from dawn until dusk,

their tonsils in bunches tremble

under their meagre chins, fir to burst.

 

When austere slumbers have lowered their lids

they dream on their arms of seats become fertile;

of perfect little loves of open-work chairs surrounding dignified desks.

 

Flowers of ink dropping pollen like commas lull them asleep

in their rows of squat flower-cups like dragonflies

threading their flight along the flags

– and their membra virilia are aroused by barbed ears of wheat.

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The Customs Men

Les Douaniers

book

Those who say Gord Struth; those who say Swelp Me –

pensioned soldiers and sailors, the wreckage of Empire –

are nothing, nothing at all, compared with the warriors of Excise

who slash the blue frontiers with their great axe-blows.

 

Pipes in their teeth, blades in their hands, deep, unruffled,

when darkness noses at the woods like a cow’s muzzle, off they go,

leading their dogs, to hold their nocturnal and terrible revels!

 

They report the bacchantes to the laws of today.

They clap hands on the shoulders of Fausts and of Devils:

‘Now then, none of that, you old dodgers! Put those bundles down!’

 

And, when his serene highness accosts the young,

the Customs Man holds fast to all contraband charms!

The Inferno for Offenders whom his hand has frisked!

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Evening Prayer

Oraison du soir

book

I spend my life sitting – like an angel

in the hands of a barber – a deeply fluted beer mug

in my fist, belly and neck curved,

a Gambier pipe in my teeth, under the air

swelling with impalpable veils of smoke.

 

Like the warm excrements in an old dovecote,

a thousand dreams burn softly inside me,

and at times my sad heart is like sap-wood bled

on by the dark yellow gold of its sweats.

 

Then, when I have carefully swallowed my dreams,

I turn, having drunk thirty or forty tankards,

and gather myself together to relieve bitter need:

 

As sweetly as the Saviour of Hyssops

and of Cedar I piss towards dark skies,

very high and very far;

and receive the approval of the great heliotropes.

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Parisian War Song

Chant de guerre parisien

book

Spring is evidently here;

for the ascent of Thiers

and Picard from the green Estates lays

its splendours wide open!

O May! What delirious bare bums!

O Sevres Meudon, Bagneux, Asnieres,

listen now to the welcome arrivals

scattering springtime joys!

 

They have shakos, and sabers, and tom-toms,

and none of the old candleboxes;

and skiffs which have nev nev..

are cutting the lake of bloodstained waters.

 

More than ever before, we roister,

as on to our ant-heaps come tumbling the yellow heads,

on these extraordinary dawns:

 

Theirs and Picards are Cupids;

and beheaders of sunflowers too;

they paint peaceful landscapes

(Corots) with insecticide (paraffin):

look how their tropes de-cockchafer the trees…

 

‘They’re familiars of the Great What’s-his-name!…’ –

And Favre, lying among the irisis,

blinks and weeps crocodile tears,

and sniffs his peppery sniff!

 

The Big City has hot cobblestones,

in spite of your showers of paraffin;

and decidedly we shall have to liven you up in your parts..

 

And the Rustics who take their ease in long squattings

will hear boughs breaking among the red rustlings.

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My Little Mistresses

Mes Petites Amoureuses

book

A tincture of tears washes
The cabbage-green skies:
Beneath the dripping tree with tender shoots,
Your waterproofs

Whitened by peculiar moons
With round staring eyes,
Knock your kneecaps together,
My ugly ones!

We loved each other in those days,
Blue ugly one!
We used to eat boiled eggs
And chickweed!

One evening you anointed me poet,
Blond ugly one:
Come down here, let me smack you
Across my knees;

I have puked up your brillantine,
Black ugly one;
You would stop the sound of my mandolin
Before it was out of my head.

Ugh! My dried spittle,
Red-headed ugly one,
Still infects the wrinckles
Of your round breast!

O my little Mistresses,
How I hate you!
Plaster with painful blisters
Your ugly bosoms!

Trample upon my little pots
Of feelings;
Now then jump! Be ballerinas for me
Just for a moment!

Your shoulder-blades are out of joint,
O my loves!
With a star on your hobbling backs
Turn in your turns!

And yet after all, it’s for these shoulders of mutton
That I’ve made rhymes!
I’d like to break your hips
For having loved!

Insipid heap of fallen stars,
Pile up in the corners!
– You’ll be extinguished in God, saddled
With ignoble cares!

Whitened by peculiar moons,
With round staring eyes,
Knock your kneecaps together,
My ugly ones!

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