At last you’re tired of this elderly world

Shepherdess O Eiffel Tower this morning the bridges are bleating

You’re fed up living with antiquity

Even the automobiles are antiques
Religion alone remains entirely new religion
Remains as simple as an airport hangar

In all Europe only you O Christianism are not old
The most modern European Pope Pius X it’s you
The windows watch and shame has sealed
The confessionals against you this morning
Flyers catalogs hoardings sing aloud
Here’s poetry this morning and for prose you’re reading the tabloids
Disposable paperbacks filled with crimes and police
Biographies of great men a thousand various titles

I saw a pretty street this morning I forgot the name
New and cleanly it was the sun’s clarion
Executives laborers exquisite stenographers
Criss-cross Monday through Saturday four times daily
Three times every morning sirens groan
At the lunch hour a rabid bell barks
The lettering on the walls and billboards
the doorplates and posters twitters parakeet-style
I love the swank of that street
Situated in Paris between the rue Aumont-Thieville and the avenue des Ternes

Here’s the young street and you’re still a baby
Dressed by your mother in blue and white only
You’re very pious and with your oldest friend Rene Dalize
Nothing is more fun than Masses and Litanies

It’s nine o’clock the gaslight is low you leave your bed
You pray all night in the school chapel
Meanwhile an eternal adorable amethyst depth
Christ’s flamboyant halo spins forever
Behold the beautiful lily of worship
Behold the red-haired torch inextinguishable
Behold the pale son and scarlet of the dolorous Mother
Behold the tree forever tufted with prayer
Behold the double gallows honor and eternity
Behold the six-pointed star
Behold the God who dies on Friday and rises on Sunday
Behold the Christ who flies higher than aviators
He holds the world's record for altitude

Christ pupil of the eye
Twentieth pupil of the centuries knows its stuff
And bird-changed this century like Jesus climbs the sky
Devils in the abyss look up to watch
They say this century mimics Simon Magus in Judea
It takes a thief to catch a thief they cry
Angels flutter around the pretty trapeze act
Icarus Enoch Elijah Apollonius of Tyana
Hover as close to the airplane as they can
Sometimes they give way to other men hauling the Eucharist
Priests eternally climbing the elevating Host
The plane descends at last its wings unfolded
bursts into a million swallows
Full speed come the crows the owls and falcons
From Africa ibis storks flamingoes
The Roc-bird famous with writers and poets
Glides Adam’s skull the original head in its talons
The horizon screams an eagle pouncing
And from America there comes a hummingbird
From China sinuous peehees
Who have only one wing and who fly in couples
And here’s a dove immaculate spirit
Escorted by lyre-bird and shimmery peacock

Phoenix the pyre the self-resurrected
Obscures everything ardently briefly with ash
The sirens abandon their perilous channels
Each one singing more beautifully arrives
Everyone eagle Phoenix Chinese peehees
Eager to befriend a machine that flies

You are walking in Paris alone inside a crowd
Herds of buses bellow and come too close
Love-anguish clutches your throat
You must never again be loved
In the Dark Ages you would have entered a monastery
You are ashamed to overhear yourself praying
You laugh at yourself and the laughter crackles like hellfire
The sparks gild the ground and background of your life
Your life is a painting in a dark museum
And sometimes you examine it closely

You are walking in Paris the women are bloodsoaked
It was and I have no wish to remember it was the end of beauty

In Chartres from her entourage of flames Our Lady beamed at me
The blood of your Sacred Heart drenched me in Montmartre
I’m sick of hearing blissful promises
The love I feel is a venereal disease
And the image possessing you in your pain your insomnia
Vanishes and it is always near you

And now you are on the Riviera
Under lemon trees that never stop blooming
You are boating with friends
One is from Nice one is from Menton two from La Turbie
We are staring terrified at giant squid
At fish the symbols of Jesus swimming through seaweed

You are in the garden at an inn outside of Prague
You are completely happy a rose is on the table
And instead of getting on with your short-story
You watch the rosebug sleeping in the rose's heart

Appalled you see yourself reproduced in the agates of Saint Vitus
You were sad near to death to see yourself there
You looked as bewildered as Lazarus
In the Jewish ghetto the clock runs backwards
And you go backwards also through a slow life
Climbing the Hradchen listening at nightfall
To Bohemian songs in the singing taverns

You in Marseilles among the watermelons

You in Coblenz at the Hotel Gigantic

You in Rome beneath a Japanese tree

You in Amsterdam with a girl you find pretty who is ugly
She’s engaged to marry a student from Leyden
Where you can rent rooms in Latin Cubicula locanda
I remember spending three days there and three in Gouda

You are in Paris hauled before the magistrate
You are under arrest you are a criminal now

You went on sorrowful and giddy travels
Ignorant still of dishonesty and old age
Love afflicted you at twenty and again at thirty
I’ve lived like a fool and I've wasted my time
You dare not look at your hands I want to weep all the time
On you on the one I love on everything that frightened you

And now you are crying at the sight of refugees
Who believe in God who pray whose women nurse babies
The hall of the train station is filled with the refugee-smell
Like the Magi refugees believe in their star
They expect to find silver mines in the Argentine
And to return like kings to their abandoned countries
One family carries a red eiderdown you carry your heart
Eiderdown and dreams are equally fantastic

Some of the refugees stay on in Paris settling
Into slums on the rue des Rosiers or the rue des Ecouffes
I have seen them often at dusk they breathe at their doorways
They budge from home as reluctantly as chessmen
They are chiefly Jewish the women wear wigs
And haunt backrooms of little shops in little chairs

You’re standing at the metal counter of some dive
Drinking wretched coffee where the wretched live

You are in a cavernous restaurant at night

These women are not evil they are used-up regretful
Each has tormented someone even the ugliest

She is the daughter of a police sergeant from Jersey

Her hands I’d never noticed are hard and cracked

My pity aches along the seams of her belly

I humble my mouth to her grotesque laughter

You’re alone when morning comes
The milkmen jingle bottles in the street

Night beautiful courtesan the night withdraws
Fraudulent Ferdine or careful Leah

And you drink an alcohol as caustic as your life
Your life you drink as alcohol

You walk to Auteuil you want to go on foot to sleep
At home among your South Sea and Guinean fetishes
Christs of another shape another faith
Subordinate Christs of uncertain hopes

Goodbye Goodbye

Sun cut throated

From Alcools by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated by Donald Revell. Copyright © 1995 by Donald Revell. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.