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Justin Vicari: Encounters with Rimbaud

Golden Age 

 One of those always
 angelic voices
 — it echoes in both ears, —
 cuts through my haze:

 this rhizome
 of a thousand questions
 leads nowhere
 but drinking, madness;

 embrace this tower,
 so pleasant, so simple:
 it’s only wave, flora,
 and it’s your family!

 Then she starts singing. O!
 so pleasant, so simple,
 visible to the naked eye …
 — I sing with her, —

 embrace this tower,
 so pleasant, so simple:
 it’s only wave, flora,
 and it’s your family! … etcetera …

 Then, one voice
 — it isn’t angelic? —
 echoes around me,
 putting matters clear;

 and suddenly sings,
 my breathsister:
 with German tone yet
 passionate, round:

 the world is vicious
 if this even shocks us.
 See the unexplained disaster
 let it burn

 O pretty chateau
 how bright your life
 From what Era are you,
 princely character
 of our wondrous brother? etcetera …

 I too am singing:
 multiple sisters. Voices
 never before made public
 surround me
 in chaste glory … etcetera …


Women Picking Lice 

 The instant the child’s crown, crawling with red agonies, 
 starts to beg the hazy white dream swarm,
 two tall, charming sisters appear by his bed
 with skinny fingers with argentine nails.

 They sit the child at a cross-barred window
 wide where the blue air bathes a mess of flowers
 and through his thick hair where the dew drips
 their slim, scary, pretty fingers stroll.

 He hears the singsong of their bated breaths
 bloom to long pink-honey tendrils
 when it does not crack in a hiss, spit
 sucked back from their lips or thirst for kissing.

 He hears their black lashes bat beneath fragrant
 hushes; while their sweet electric fingers
 make each tiny lice death crackle
 under their regal nails, in his gray-outs.

 Then wine of Lethargy floods his guts,
 harmonica sigh that could bring on madness;
 like slow caresses, the child feels incessant
 urges to weep well up in him and die.



 It’s found again.
 What? — Eternity.
 It’s the sea 
 wrestling the sun.

 Watchman soul,
 let’s murmur the vow
 of nowhere night
 and day on fire.

 My eternal soul,
 keep your vow
 despite lonely night
 and day on fire.

 you lose your self in them
 and must get away.

 — Never hope,
 no orietur.
 Wait long enough,
 all tortures are assured.
 Only you
 embers of satin
 breathe the faith
 without which we would say: basta.

 No more tomorrows,
 embers of satin,
 your burning
 is our duty’s sole devotion.

 It’s found again.
 What? — Eternity.
 It’s the sea 
 making love to the sun.



 Lord, when the prairie’s cold,
 when long angeluses die
 in beaten villages …
 over that denuded nature,
 dear delectable crows
 throb the gigantic sky.

 Shrieking army from another planet,
 frigid winds attack your nests.
 You, the length of jaundiced rivers,
 on roads to ancient Calvaries
 spanning ditches, pits,
 disperse and come together

 by the thousands above fields of France
 where the last war’s dead now sleep,
 you wove and weave eternal circles in the winter sky
 making wanderers brood.
 Be the crier of our conscience then,
 O our black funereal bird.

 But you: sky’s saints, high in an oak,
 spellbound evening’s crooked mast,
 leave May’s warblers
 to those deep forest hermits who keep
 infinities of defeat in chains
 down in the grass that eats

Author’s note:  I am not calling these translations, rather I am calling them ‘encounters with Rimbaud.’ The method is to give the poems a unified and (as much as possible) modern voice. I am trying to capture a tone, ribald, sardonic, rebellious, shocking, which Rimbaud exemplified, but which is kind of sanitized from a lot of English versions. Among other things, the role of humor and irony in his work has been overlooked; in fact the original French has a lot of humor in it, especially parts of Season in Hell. At any rate it comes from my considered reading of Rimbaud, whose work I have been reading in French and trying to translate since I was about 12. I feel I am uncovering the real tonal meaning of the poems by taking slight liberties; I would say these do have a lot of literal-ness, I depart just enough to make me wary of calling them translations. And I remove punctuation at times to make it flow and to de-territorialize the syntax.

Copyright 2020 Justin Vicari

Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891) was a French poet known for his influence on modern literature and arts. Born in Charleville-Mézières, he started writing at a very young age and excelled as a student, but abandoned his formal education in his teenage years to run away from home to Paris amidst the Franco-Prussian War. During his late adolescence and early adulthood he began the bulk of his literary output, then completely stopped writing at the age of 21, after assembling one of his major works, Illuminations. Rimbaud was known to have been a libertine and a restless soul, having engaged in an at-times-violent romantic relationship with fellow poet Paul Verlaine, which lasted nearly two years. After ending his literary career, he traveled extensively on three continents as a merchant before his death from cancer just after his thirty-seventh birthday.

2 comments on “Justin Vicari: Encounters with Rimbaud

  1. jbauer103waolcom
    May 10, 2020

    Beautiful work. Thank you, Justin, for these “encounters.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. johnlawsonpoet
    May 8, 2020

    Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
    Very inspiring encounter with Rimbaud.

    Liked by 1 person

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