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Arthur Rimbaud
Arthur Rimbaud
A volatile and peripatetic poet, the prodigy Arthur Rimbaud wrote all of his poetry in a space of less than five years...
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The Seekers of Lice

 
by Arthur Rimbaud
translated by Jeremy Harding

When the boy's head, full of raw torment,
Longs for hazy dreams to swarm in white,
Two charming older sisters come to his bed
With slender fingers and silvery nails.

They sit him at a casement window, thrown
Open on a mass of flowers basking in blue air,
And run the fine, intimidating witchcraft
Of their  fingers through his dew-dank hair.

He listens to their diffident, sing-song breath,
Smelling of elongated honey off the rose,
Broken now and then by a hiss: saliva sucked
Back from the lip, or a longing to be kissed.

He hears their dark eyelashes start in the sweet-
Smelling silence and, through his grey listlessness,
The crackle of small lice dying, beneath
The imperious nails of their soft, electric fingers.

The wine of Torpor wells up in him then
— Near on trance, a harmonica-sigh —
And in their slow caress he feels
The endless ebb and flow of a desire to cry.






Copyright © Jeremy Harding and John Sturrock, 2004. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.
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