I met you in sickness.
Never have I heard you talk of dreams more.
Someone wondrous was born in Saint-Denis.
And I get to listen to his verse, get to hold him in my arms.
Moscow broke your heart, Paris mine.
Distance is an atrocity,
When the air you breathe comes from your lover’s skin.
I am an addict, Paul.
He doesn’t want me there, she calls me “the little Russian”.
War lies at our feet.
Yet we both suffer elsewhere.
Don’t give in to the migraines, Paul, they show you things untrue.
I traveled for you, to see your eyes again, afire.
Never did I lose heart
When I voyaged from Helsinki to Stockholm,
From England to Paris, the separating city of love.
But you wrote letters of the dead.
Words of war and grief and youth undone and eradicated.
You dug their graves, looked into darkness itself, the holes of ended lives.
And I wonder, do you see us in there too?
Have I gone too far, wandered too far, to look at you again?
Give life a chance, togetherness, perhaps, peace?
Do you suffer from migraines because I see the visions?
And we married, but you let war get between us, the wounded and heroic.
You watch your sickness increase whilst Cécile is born.
Then you wrote those hopeful lines to me and I hoped they were true.
The poet in you reborn, was there a part of me in you?
Your words moved them deeply, our worldview without boundaries.
We loved one another, in our own ways, artists, bodies with a soul.
Don’t be anxious, Paul, alcohol never solved your malaise.
I found you in Saigon, before you spoke of death as a blessing.
Did I find the man I loved?
My political poet, we cannot remain.
Will you ever be cured? Am I the poison? Are we making each other sick?
We cannot stagnate in sanatoriums.
I didn’t know that this would be our last winter together.
Then Salvador happened until the end of me.
But I did realise, we had always been too cold.
I wish our goodbyes had been warmer,
And maybe they were, but cooled off as they reached our lips.
“Sleeping Italian Woman” by Eugène Pluchart (1835-1898)