By Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by Wallace Fowlie
When the child’s forehead, full of red torments,
Implores the white swarm of indistinct dreams,
There come near his bed two tall charming sisters
With slim fingers that have silvery nails.
They seat the child in front of a wide open
Window where the blue air bathes a mass of flowers
And in his heavy hair where the dew falls
Move their delicate, fearful and enticing fingers.
He listens to the singing of their apprehensive breath.
Which smells of long rosy plant honey
And which at times a hiss interrupts, saliva
Caught on the lip or desire for kisses.
He hears their black eyelashes beating in the perfumed
Silence; and their gentle electric fingers
Make in his half-drunken indolence the death of the little lice
Crackle under their royal nails.
Then the wine of Sloth rises in him,
The sigh of an harmonica which could bring on delirium;
The child feels, according to the slowness of the caresses
Surging in him and dying continuously a desire to cry.
Arthur Rimbaud, "The Seekers of Lice" from Complete Works, Selected Letters. Copyright © 2005 by Arthur Rimbaud. Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
Source: Complete Works, Selected Letters (University of Chicago Press, 2005)
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