– with lines from Arthur Rimbaud’s Ophelia
You were precious, always and never.
The breath of wind that displaced you
(that spoke to you in low voices of better freedom)
From Shannon’s banks to Connecticut’s,
Was first balmy in its westerly approach.
Soon, tempered by the arctic gales
Over jealous waves, it became the frigid gown
Of mourning that swaddled you, the tempest
Of your habitat. Impoverished of warmth,
Untouched, untouchable lily, snatched up
By that capricious current and dropped
Upon the bed of some frosty foreign stream.
(O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!)
You were desired, always and never.
Ushered along that alien waterfront by your callous chaperone,
(On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping)
Colder ground beneath you now than in familiar emerald slopes.
‘Irish whore’ they came to call you when they found you there,
Our children, our monstrosities, indelicately took their hold
Of this newfound naked novelty, a toy for nasty play.
How did you comprehend the damage they brought you to?
Your petals, barely budded, torn and scattered along pathways diseased.
How did they pay the debt of grace accrued in their rape of you?
Can I yet hope to settle this account with redress of love for you
Or with hate and harm for those that held you there,
dangling above the gnashing rocks and rapids?
Always, and never, with heart-scars that promise to burst and bleed for ages.
(For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.)
A flower hung above a stairwell to dry. Life is drained from the blossom; petals have browned and become brittle, and the stem chokes for moisture before hardening to a woody skeleton. Pressed between pages of a book we loved once but never now open to read, the flower is kept, in death, safe from harm, with the secret that she withered for.
(You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.)