Mémoire by Arthur Rimbaud
by Steven McCabe
Clear water, like the salt of childhood tears:
The white of women’s bodies opened in the sun,
And truth, beyond walls or the silk oriflammes, won
Out with the valour of a maid pure in her years.
The frolic of angels in their moving blaze of gold,
Imponderable arms sparkling with the coolness of the grass,
And the blues of Heaven taking up their beds to pass
Under the canopy of shade into the arch and hill’s fold.
The stones, under the water, extend as in a clear broth,
And depths, freckled in prepared beds of pale gold,
And frocks of girls, loosely faded, as green as mould,
And willows, and hopping birds, unfettered, woven in the day’s cloth.
Round as the eyelid, with the warmth of a gold Louis,
Blooms the marsh marigold, fresh in its wedding vows.
The mirror at prompt noon, jealous of the day’s drouse
Tarnishes into a sphere, heat-flecked and dear to us.
Too upright is Madam in the meadow’s rippled glass.
The sons of toil are in the cotton-fields falling as a white cloud.
In her fingers she twirls her parasol, tramples it, too proud
To watch her children reading in the flowered grass
Their books in red morocco. Of what they think or dream —
As on all paths a thousand angels flare upon the day —
Of hopes lost in high mountains, she cannot follow; her way
Is overcast and cold, as is the shadowed stream.
Regret of arms satiated and celibate,
Sainted, straight white beds on moonlit April nights,
And the tear-wet joy falling on abandoned river sites,
And the rotting evenings in August that these germinate.
Under walls let her weep now: the winds possess
Only the high poplars, their motions tremulously sown.
Underneath in lead, unglinting, weighed with stone,
An old dredger labours, the small boat motionless.
Flotsam, plaything of these waters that nothing hinders,
A boat beholden to stillness, and with arms too short,
And flowers blue or yellow, not then ever sought,
And breath now spread upon a water dull as cinders.
And for all that there are willows, powder, the plume of blood
That would drag out roses from reedbeds of time’s jaws,
The boat stays here, unmoving, and the chain draws
On the eye, water-heavy and deep in the unbanked mud.
Translation C. John Holcombe
Original photo credit: Massimo Sestini