Rimbaud – last letter to Verlaine – R. Bremner

My dearest Paul,

          As now the scorching fires in my leg
will not desist (perhaps foreshadowing
my eternal fate), my mind aches too, with
thoughts of  you, as sometime last night,
or the time I acquaint with last
night, as my hours have no distinction
now,
          the Saviour came to raise me from
this bed of hell, but lo! His Face was
yours, and I cried out, slipping through
His grasp back into Hell.
For those days are long past, those
days of foolish whimsey, staggering through
the streets under singing stars.  And you,
my love, scavenger of my morbid moods,
defiler of my sacred youth,  whose soul did
I torrefy to see the flames not of Hell but
of a glorious Heaven, the Heaven of you, to
you I must account so many years.
My pale, tender skin once cringed from
the sweltering heat of Paris, my protection
from burning being angels of the Lord (your-
self one), whose dreaming rhymes my own
pursued.  But how cold grew Paris, my wretched
body a frozen lake with only the alcohol in my
bloodstream to keep the deeper waters flowing.
Sick from staggering, from shivers, and from
vomit, sick of your postured holy platitudes
so defenseless against my debaucheries, like
the rosary you dropped, trembling, before
my nakedness, and sick of passion so
wearying to maintain, with its fitful mad-
ness and violent bursts,
          I sought my peace in the fortunes of
the warm East, my agile mind a productive
machine.  No more torn pockets for a poor
lad, this former lamb became a thriving
merchant.  No drunken boats carry me now,
no lyric muses touch my eyes, or caress my
senses with their soft beauty.  Sweating in
the steaming cities of Africa, my heart was
becalmed.  But never have I felt so cold as
now, on return to Marseilles.  No amount of
coverings can keep the fearful cold away.
I hear the silken voice of God, a God Who
is not you, Paul.  Let us neither curse the foul
deeds we wrought upon each other’s psyches,
nor moan for our former ecstasies, but deliver
ourselves into His Hands, Who raised your arm
when you shot at me, sending me on my journey
to His doorstep today.

Ron BremnerR. Bremner, of Glen Ridge, NJ, is a former cab driver, truck unloader, security guard, computer programmer, and vice-president at Citibank who writes of dead kings and many things he can’t define, the clutter in your mind, and the color of time. He was in the first issue of Passaic Review with Allen Ginsberg. He has appeared in International Poetry Review, Oleander Review, Paterson Literary Review, Yellow Chair Review, and Poets Online and elsewhere. His verses were featured at the monthlong Montclair Library Ekphrasis exhibit. A member of the Montclair Write Group, he reads with the Red Wheelbarrow Poets. Visit him at his page at: http://www.pw.org/content/r_bremner