My cradle stood against the bookcase, Babel
Of murky voices. Novel, science, fable,
Greek dust, and Latin ashes made one stew.
When I was tall as a big folio,
Two voices spoke to me. The first was firm,
Also seductive: “This world’s full of charm.
What I can do for you, my boy, is make
Your hunger equal to this endless cake.”
The other: “Come to dreamland! Come explore
Beyond the merely possible and known!”
This voice was like a wind along the shore,
A rootless phantom singing on its own
With a caressing, terrifying sound.
I answered “Yes! Sweet voice!” And so began
Whatever you might call it—say my wound
And my fatality. Behind the scene
Of this enormous stage, in an abyss
Of blackness, I see other worlds than this.
Privileged victim of a clear-eyed fate,
I drag along with serpents at my feet.
And since that time the prophet within me
Loves above all the desert and the sea;
I laugh at funerals and weep at feasts,
And in the sourest wine find some sweet taste;
Many a humdrum fact I call a lie,
And fall in holes through gazing at the sky.
My Voice consoles me: “Keep your mad dreams, far
Fairer than the dreams of wise men are!”

from Poèmes Supplémentaires (#6)

This Issue

February 14, 1991