This sky over Paris purer than a winter sky lucid with cold
I have never seen such starry, luxuriant nights as this spring
When the trees along the boulevards are like shadows from the sky,
Foliage in rivers thick with elephants' ears,
Plane trees leaves, heavy chestnut trees.
A lily on the Seine is the moon at the water's level
The Milky Way swoons on Paris and embraces it
Mad, naked, sprawled out, its mouth sucks at Notre Dame.
The great Bear and the Little Bear growl around Saint Merry.
My amputated hand shines in the sky in the Orion constellation.
In this hard, cold light, flickering, more than unreal,
Paris is like the frozen image of a plant
Reviving in its ashes. Pitiful specter.
In unanswering line and ageless, the houses and streets are only
Stone and iron heaped up in an unbelievable desert.
Babylon and the Thebaid are no less dead tonight than the dead city of Paris
Blue and green, ink and pitch, its arches starwashed.
Not a sound. No passerby. It is heavy silence of war.
My eyes travel from the urinaries to the violet eye of the street lamps.
It is the only lighted space to which I can drag my uneasiness.
So it is that every evening I cross Paris on foot
From the Batignolles to the Latin Quarter just as I would cross the Andes
In the fires of new stars, ever larger and more overwhelming,
The Southern cross more stupendous at each step one takes
toward it, emerging from the old world
Onto its new continent.
I am the man who has no more past. — Only my stump aches. —
I rented a hotel room to be truly alone with myself.
I have a brand new wicker basket filling up with my manuscripts.
I have neither books nor paintings, no esthetic geegaws.
A newspaper is yellowing on my worktable.
I work in my bare room, behind a frosted glass,
Bare feet on red linoleum, playing with balloons and a little child's trumpet:
I am working on LA FIN DU Monde.
(New Directions 1965)