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FAUN'S MIDAFTERNOON by Stéphane Mallarmé


These nymphs I wish perpetuatable, their clear glow
in air, sleepy tufted selves, dreamt-on affections,
ramifies like doubt, some nocturne's bass -- I loved a lack,
these branches' exudate, so think on it.
If those you explicate deceive, are fables, the
cool and blue of eyes a quality
of spring, the fontainebleau of chastity
their dreams of you a zephyrated fleece . . .
No, what air moves the paired columns of my flute
these breaths my own, the atmosphere gelée
or mute barring the patter of my notes, recycled sky.
Oh marches where Cato stood, or Silence on plinth
your tinsel wavelets emulating sun, say how
I cut these arcane reeds, reduced to measure
some Claude landscape as vine around some fountain
dedicates dolphins to spray, the lambing of
these pipes a feathered whiteness as of swan -- no,
nymphet's evasive dive. Inert, crisp in feral noon's
hymeneal dream's unaccountably absent her
I wake, erect and prime in antick light
my flower's ingenuous first calamus.
Lipped nothing, sweet suggestive hint
a kiss unprovable's deposited, the prick of teeth inferred.
But stop, thewe arcane mouths confide
thoughts bifurcative as horizon, reed
the tremble of a cheek its tremolo,
our selves amused with dreamy sola vista
believing it extension of our song,
and make love Love by modulating up
from line of back or flank's too everyday
to cygnet's sole undeviating tone.
So lift, Syringa, flighty pinions where
you bide, repot yourselves beside us here,
my noise extending through your pithy quill
to deities' resuscitated shades
that cling like liquor to the snifter's sides,
late evening's transmogrified regret
a glass balloon, vestigially wet.
Oh puff them nymphs to rounded souvenirs:
My eye caresses reeds's immortal throats
gunbarrel dry assuaged in moister air, glints
of hair just shimmering ripples in these stones
I find them underfoot, battered by doubleness
so casually in one another's arms sleeping
I scoop up both and hie me to yon glade's
fribble of roses decanting to the sun
as we these buds do taste and are undone.
Oh virgins dangereuses, adorable
how naked armfuls slip from fevered lip
the shock of flesh electrically private
of feet less human than the dovey heart
that weeps to see an innocence depart
(my crime a gaiety betrayed to their own tears
as, separating the divine disorder
of what's so nearly one, as kisses are
the pain I took to hide my happy laugh
in the folds of one, a finger yet reserved
in t'other whose egret plume would take on
sister's leaf, rubricated by contagion
till, freed from vaguest sin, unurgent, she's
no pity for the gulping sob that's me)
ach! others occur to lead on happiness
winding more hair around my horny brow,
you know my passion's purplest passage here
so ripe it hums, the honiest grenade
our blood, already stricken, set to swarm
these branches (gone Corot) ashes and gold
though sere declare themselves on holiday;
'tis Venus leaves her dovey clawprint on
the Etnan pumice, her thunder unextinct . . .
to embrace a queen the surest punishment.
I do! Well, no, the soul you see failed
by words, Faun's body heaviness
becomes recumbent in this male noon,
forget such blasphemy in sleep, my yawning
mouth a lover's open to the stars.
My dears, I'll see shadows of you shortly.

copyright 1994 by Gerald Burns