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The Ashes

“Say it’s true. Please say you can hear
As I speak to you, all my words?” —

That’s the verse, sublime and austere,
That I sang from Paris hilltops…

I entrusted the wind with the secret
Of my artless yet only love —

But the wind rushed away and it seemed that
It then let my words drop from above:

It had scattered them over Montmartre
As a chain of nocturnal lights —

Down the verdured mount of martyrs
It winged down its reckless flight.

I had wandered along the pavement —
Blindly counting steps at night…

Much as this was bitter or painful,
I’d burnt up the verses of mine:

Just as witches of the Dark Ages
Were aflame à la Place de Grève,

Thus my woeful lines and quatrains
Writhed with pain, turning ashen grey.

And I wrote from scratch, over and over
Threading artfully every word…

I’d put the wild rosemary potion
In a niche onto my headboard.

But the higher forces somehow
Kept me out of the harm’s way:

Drop by drop, from the cracked phial
Deadly poison had leaked away...

…All the way to you. In the Louvre,
Amid corslets, lances and swords

I could feel your aura, your pneuma.
In the Hall of Arms, stone floors

Were as though covered with silver —
Bluish ashes I took in hands,

Sprinkling over my head, reliving
A journey down memory lane:

“Say you hear, you are aware
That I speak to you, that I call?”

…I’m exiled from beloved Paris
Under ashen-blue armed escort.