Nov. 24, 2008

Yello, scholars.

What with all the beatnik guessing games, presidential poesy, and Urdu
translations, we’ve haven’t had a nice tasty love poem in a while. And
today’s selection one goes even one better: it’s a sex poem. 

So whaddya know about Arthur Rimbaud? I know that he died at age 37. I know
that his most famous poem, the hallucinatory “Bateau Ivre” (The Drunken
Boat) is about 65 lines too long for a format such as this reading group. I
recall that after a brief apprenticeship and affair with French symbolist
master Paul Verlaine, the older poet–who was quite a drinker–shot Rimbaud,
then 18, in the wrist. But the weirdest thing I learned about Rimbaud I
learned a couple summers ago while vacationing in east Africa and reading
Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari: that in 1880, after deserting the Dutch
colonial army and working for a construction firm in Cyprus, Arthur Rimbaud
moved to what is now Ethiopia, lived with a native woman as his wife (though
not formally married), and worked for various local interests in a capacity
that Theroux describes as more or less gun-running. He struck up a close
friendship with the father of the future Haile Selassie, father of the
modern Ethiopian nation. The archetypical enfant terrible of surrealist
verse died in 1891 in Marseille, having returned to France for treatment on
a misdiagnosed and cancerous leg. What a life.


I apologize that I do not have a French original for this one.


Happy Thanksgiving, all. -ed.


THE FIRST ENCOUNTER

trans. Walter Wykes




She was only half-dressed
And equally bare  <http://www.blackcatpoems.com/t/tree_poems.html> trees
tossed
Their few leaves against the window pane
Playfully and with reckless abandon.




Sprawling half naked in my desk chair,
Hands pressed modestly against her pale breasts,
She tapped small, delicate feet on the floor
Betraying sweet anticipation.




Her body was the colour of wax, and I watched
As an eager little ray of light
Fluttered across her laughing lips,
Across her peeking breast, like an insect on the rose-bush.




I knelt and kissed her little ankles.
She laughed softly and produced
A perfect string of clear trills,
A delightful crystal laugh.




Her delicate feet disappeared 
Underneath her: “Stop! You’re so naughty!”
Yet the first act of daring permitted,
She pretended to punish me only with a laugh!





I rose and kissed her eyelids softly.
They trembled beneath my lips, poor things:
And she tossed her head back, eyes shining…
“You’re not trying to take advantage of me … are you?



“If you are, darling, you know I’ll have to–“
But I silenced the protest, dipping my mouth to her breast,
Which caused an explosion of ringing laughter
And she opened herself willingly…




She was only half-dressed
And equally bare trees tossed
Their few leaves against the window pane
Playfully and with reckless abandon.

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One response to “Nov. 24, 2008

  1. And a reply:

    Here’s the French… apologies for any flummoxed accent marks.
    “Like an insect on the rose bush”? Not the sexiest imagery, to my mind.

    –Jonelle


    Première Soirée

    Elle était fort déshabillée
    Et de grands arbres indiscrets
    Aux vitres jetaient leur feuillée
    Malinement, tout près, tout près.

    Assise sur ma grande chaise,
    Mi-nue, elle joignait les mains.
    Sur les planchers frissonnaient d’aise
    Ses petits pieds si fins, si fins.

    Je regardai, couleurs de cire,
    Un petit rayon buissonnier
    Papillonner dans son sourire
    Et sur son sein, – mouche au rosier.

    Je baisai ses fines chevilles.
    Elle eut un doux rire brutal
    Qui s’égrenait en claires trilles,
    Un joli rire de cristal.

    Les petits pieds sous la chemise
    Se sauvèrent: “Veux-tu finir!”
    La première audace permise,
    Le rire feignait de punir!

    Pauvrets palpitants sous ma lèvre,
    Je baisai doucement ses yeux:
    Elle jeta sa tête mièvre
    En arrière: “Oh! C’est encor mieux!…

    Monsieur, j’ai deux mots à te dire…”
    Je lui jetai le reste au sein
    Dans un baiser, qui la fit rire
    D’un bon rire qui voulait bien…

    Elle était fort déshabillée
    Et de grands arbres indiscrets
    Aux vitres jetaient leur feuillée
    Malinement, tout près, tout près.

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