Towards dawn on a hot summer night
In 1898, Paul Verlaine’s four brothers
Drifted one by one into a dream
Belonging to Celeleste-Marie Duplaix.
(Until they arrived it had featured
Some sort of animal, possibly a goat.)
She knew them at once and pitied
Their dusty existence. (Lacking ambition,
They had not been born Their mother
Kept them in preservative spirits
As a talking piece in her parlor)
Loading their bottles into a pram
She took them to the Opera
Hoping they’d enjoy the change.
The cold men at the Opera door.
Care not a whit that you might
Be visiting them in a dream or that
Your charitable spirit has made you
Take unborn children to see things
More lively than credenzas and side tables.
Celeste-Marie was naked; the fetuses
Searched themselves but found not a sou.
Who knows how things might have ended
If Verlaine and I had not been there?
Verlaine had been dead for two years
And was, anyway, stony broke.
By a happy chance, with the luck
That eludes me outside of dreams,
My right hand clutched rubies
And my left held seven tickets.