A version of ‘Solo de lune’ by Jules Laforgue

I smoke, spread out
Beneath the evening sky on the top deck
Of a careering stagecoach, every bone
In my body rattling, jangling – but my soul
Is a dancing Ariel, my soul
Whirls beyond bitterness and cloying
Honey, beyond the passing
Roads and hills and valleys and even
My own tobacco fumes … and dancing it recalls

That we fell crazily in love … and yet we parted
Without mentioning
The fact: spleen drove me away, spleen, all-
Invading spleen.

Her eyes were eloquent: ‘Do you get it?
Or rather, why oh why do you not get it?’
Neither would make
That first move – we had to fall simultaneously
Together to our knees,
You see.

Where, I wonder,
Is she now, perhaps crying – where
Is she right now? Take care
At any rate, I beg you, do take care.

How cool the woods on either side
Of the road, the road … O shawl of melancholy, souls
Are listening, alert – and it’s my
Life inspiring their envy. Magic
Enfolds the upper deck of this diligence.

Let’s stockpile whatever can’t be fixed, bid
Higher and higher on our fate.
There are more stars than grains of sand
In the seas where others
Have seen her bathing. All slides, as ever, towards
Death, no shelter
From that storm.

The years will skim over all that has happened,
And our hearts
Will harden, apart, leaving us muttering – I can see it
Now – ‘If only I’d known …’ Married
Or unmarried – ‘If only, if only
I’d known …’ Accursed be our wretched
Rendezvous! – my heart
Was a sealed box, my behaviour was
… not good.

Mad as hatters
For happiness – what on earth
Shall we do now? How can we square my ‘soul’ with her
Gullible youth? Must I spend evening
After evening wildly defending – O ageing
Sinner! – your non-
Existent honour.

‘Do you’ (her eyes
Flashed) ‘see? How’ (her eyes flashed) ‘can you possibly
Not see?’ Yet neither of us took the first step, neither
Fell to our knees.
The moon rises, and the road
Is like a dream … we sped

Past cotton mills and sawmills, but now
Only milestones mark
Our progress, and pink candyfloss clouds
And a frail crescent moon … it unfurls, our
Dreamy road, unaccompanied
By music … in pinewood forests where night, since time began,
Has reigned, are swept
And secret rooms – to these
One might elope? I people the woods, imagine
Myself in a couple, among handsome lovers escaping
The law … excited … gesticulating.

And now I
Cast them behind, am Ariel
Himself on this winding road – awaited by no
Welcoming host, only the friendship
Of some hotel room.

The moon rises
Above the oneiric, endless
Road – we reach
A staging post, and lighted
Lanterns, a glass of milk, and cries
Of ‘Drive, postilion,
Drive!’ amid chirping
Crickets, beneath the stars
Of July.

My misfortune
Is drowning
In moonlight, in flares like wedding fireworks,
In the shadowy poplars overarching
The road … in the song
The mountain torrent
Sings to itself … in the rising
Waters of Lethe.

Solo, you outwit
My pen, this night
On the road … and stars, you scare me, so
Many of you, out there … O wisdom
Of the hour – how I wish
I could preserve your inspiration, and draw on it
As autumn looms.

The temperature
Has dropped, and she
May be drifting
Through some forest – she loves
To wander late – drowning
Her sorrows in nuptial moonlight … she’ll have forgotten
Her scarf and the night’s beauties
Will have her rapt in wonder … she’ll catch cold, oh please
Take care – what I would give never again to have to hear
Your coughing.

Once more – why oh why oh why did we fail
To tumble, fainting, at each other’s feet! I would have been
The paragon of spouses – just as no frou-frou could ever match
The frou-frou made by your dress
When you move.

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