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 modem 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 Yu 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.
Guillaume Apollinaire (Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris Kostrowitzky) was born in Rome on August 26, 1880.
Date Published: 1995-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/zone