You know that Léopold died.
You were born a year later.
My daughter, Léopoldine.
I wonder did you cross paths in exchange?
Were you a product of grief?
Or of love, it’s hard to keep them apart.
Came you into the world infested?
Given life, plagued by tragedy?
Was it in your blood, your destiny?
My golden child.
Married to Charles.
I felt like I could let you go.
Your smile reassured me forevermore.
Then I grasped that newspaper with the devil’s work.
Léopoldine Hugo, dead at nineteen.
How many poems could save your life?
And mine? Was it not attached to yours?
Your death corsets my lungs.
I fall, Léopoldine, I fall so deeply, reading those words.
Love is dead.
Does the Seine engulf us all?
Your heavy robes, ma petite fille.
Charles, my temporary hero, would not rest until he saved you.
And he died trying.
Will I ever bring life into the world again?
Water took away my heart and soul.
I stretch my hands into the netherworld in hope to catch you still.
In vain, I read and reread the word deceased.
I cannot put Léopoldine and death together.
It doesn’t make sense, the fall never ceases.
The nightmare never collapses its curtains in front of my eyes.
I keep seeing you still.
The machinery is halted.
The heartbeat forced.
The hope lies against your skin in your grave.
I cannot rest knowing we are apart.
And when I myself close my eyes forever,
With my beard long and white,
I think of none other, than you, my daughter, Léopoldine,
And nothing may stop a father from rejoining his most loved one.
“Victor Hugo jeune” by Achille Devéria (1800-1857)