(20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891 / Charleville, Ardennes)

Those Who Sit

Dark with knobbed growths,
peppered with pock-marks like hail,
their eyes ringed with green,
their swollen fingers clenched on their thigh-bones,
their skulls caked with indeterminate crusts
like the leprous growths on old walls;
in amorous seizures they have grafted
their weird bone structures
to the great dark skeletons of their chairs;
their feet are entwined, morning and evening,
on the rickety rails!

These old men have always been one flesh with their seats,
feeling bright suns drying their skins to the texture of calico,
or else, looking at the window-panes
where the snow is turning grey,
shivering with the painful shiver of the toad.

And their Seats are kind to them;
coloured brown with age, the straw yields
to the angularities of their buttocks;
the spirit of ancient suns lights up,
bound in these braids of ears in which the corn fermented.

And the Seated Ones, knees drawn up to their teeth,
green pianists whose ten fingers keep drumming under their seats,
listen to the tapping of each other's melancholy barcolles;
and their heads nod back and forth as in the act of love.

-Oh don't make them get up! It's a catastrophe!
They rear up like growling tom-cats when struck,
slowly spreading their shoulders... What rage!
Their trousers puff out at their swelling backsides.

And you listen to them as they bump
their bald head is against the dark walls,
stamping and stamping with their crooked feet;
and their coat-buttons are the eyes of wild beasts
which fix yours from the end of the corridors!
And then they have an invisible weapon which can kill:
returning, their eyes seep the black poison
with which the beaten bitch's eye is charged,
and you sweat, trapped in the horrible funnel.

Reseated, their fists retreating into soiled cuffs,
they think about those that have made them
get up and, from dawn until dusk,
their tonsils in bunches tremble
under their meagre chins, fir to burst.

When austere slumbers have lowered their lids
they dream on their arms of seats become fertile;
of perfect little loves of open-work chairs surrounding dignified desks.
Flowers of ink dropping pollen like commas lull them asleep
in their rows of squat flower-cups like dragonflies
threading their flight along the flags
- and their membra virilia are aroused by barbed ears of wheat.

by Arthur Rimbaud

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