Le Livre de Poche, piecemeal man, tatter cake,
left where the wind leaves me.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with the wind for your shoes.
Text intégral, a ragbag man,
an album of bruised stamps,
a sore visa kissed by a xxxxxxx ink
the colours of blood in an arse.

Milestones. Distance leaves them, makes them.
And the Rome all roads lead to
has walked away in stone sandals;
Lot’s wife has melted down with her salt
into the rain that melts in the ground;
and the columns that glisten, the pillars that stayed
are only a road’s kind of afterthought
whose genius whispers, ‘goodbye’.

Now we’re Bedouin with the Bedouin days.
Carry your epitaph under your tongue,
your grave in your eyes. Every footstep’s a pupa.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with shoes of the wind.
Paris is a ship of smoke, drifting at anchor:
the poets line up, they’re here
for the duration — they have their papers —
their passports for Eternity.
Leave them, still queuing up their mountainside:
having butted your head against Paradise,
burn your shadow in the snow
wrapped in a second-hand coat, only a pocket of holes
to set out against the peasant cold
on a road which only has one direction —

Drunk and unshaven in a shithole hotel,
on a broken handmirror, what will you see?
An alchemist among the damaged crucibles
of infant vowels, cracked ‘A’s, lopsided ‘O’s —
Omegas, like violet bolts, barring the way.
And you will see pure eyes. Childhood — like rain
when there are no clouds.
You’ll never get back there — now.
You’re washed up, marooned, in a glance
on an island where glass cannibals roam,
gnawing your gaze, your bones — the year’s idol.

A hash pipe is a phantom boat
docked to the world by cables of fire.
You book passage and are soon aboard
tossing on a little sea of your delirium.
Europe grows small with its priests and schools,
its courtyards and steeples sink away from you:
your keel drips with clouds melting
in the frosty reaches of the stratosphere
miles above the rooves of sleeping châteaux.
The pole star is dipped into the water
and slides below your heel as you sail on.

Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with soles of the wind.

Now you sleep between an ocean and a single tear.
Your boat needs no shores, not even sides:
your cargo spills to become the sea,
compass and rudder are useless here,
mute savages on island beaches watch you pass
towards terra incognita, and a space at last
beyond the reach of people and their love
where your vessel bears you to your own chapped lips
like cool fresh water you will never drink
or words called out in dreams you will never hear.

The sky has no clouds, above all blue, unmoored.
You float a paper boat
on a cold Northern pool,
dying leaves falling around you.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with the wind for your shoes.
Lima, Caracas, London, Port Said:
an atlas of journeys for you.
But the journey forgets its maker.
You wake, there’s only bald foam,
a trail of smoke, a scream of strange seabirds
diving from bleached cliffs;
there are only tusks and guns, schedules, agendas,
and a gargoyle of gangrene
peeping out from the bone.

Rimbaud, Rimbaud, shod by the wind.
You float a paper boat
on a black Northern pool,
and your mother is calling,
she is stubborn with home.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with poems in your pocket,
somewhere in Gaul,
trudging back across plough earth,
dreaming of landfall and Abyssinia.