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Eric Ormsby

 

BAUDELAIRE TO MME. AUPICK,
AT HONFLEUR (1867)


Chère Madame, do you remember still
the windows of the garden where we sat
watching the sun on August afternoons
lovingly ascend the leafy wall
as though it touched with radiance
each object in its path: the tall
stems of dahlias, the trellises
where coiled brambles of young roses hung,
the statute of a nymph with hollow shell
splashing the glittered water toward a pool
where indolent carp swam in shadowy calm
until the sun’s long declination shone
along the ripples that their bright fins caused?
Our conversations had the harmony
Of that ascending light. A tacit
concord spoke from simple things.

When I remember those long afternoons,
the way the sunlight gently touched your hair,
its infinitely tender kiss
upon your lips and cheeks and eyelashes,
it seems to me our conversations were
accompanied by light, were luminous,
and every word we spoke
assumed serene embodiment in all
the voiceless objects that around us stood—
the linen with its darkly sparkling
folds, the heavy luster of the silverware,
the dense roses in their crystal mirroring
the calm crimson of the setting sun.

If I imagine Eden or a paradise
where passion steeps its secret harmonies,
my memory is of those soft afternoons
when without speaking, or the need to speak,
the two of us admired the fading light.
Those were the last times that we had of such
order made passionate in lucidity,
of passionate innocence, passionate peace,
a love not governed by the torturers.

                  —from For a Modest God, Grove Press Poetry Series, 1997
                             and Time’s Covenant, Biblioasis, 2007