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Old 17-Oct-2010

Reveille sang its call among the barracks' paths,
And moving air disturbed the tall, commanding lamps.

It was the time when dreams of lust and swarming heat
Set brown young adolescents twisting in their sheets;
When, like a bloody eye that pulses as it stares,
The lamp will cast a stain of red throughout the air;
When spirits, in the burden of the body's sway,
Mimic the struggles of the lamplight and the day.
The air, a face in tears that breeezes will wipe dry,
Is full of tremors of escaping things that fly,
And he is tired of writing, she of making love.

This house and that began to send their smoke above.
With ghastly painted eyes, the women of the streets,
Mouths gaping open, lay within their stupid sleep.
Poor women, slack breasts dangling, cold and lean as rails,
Blew on their smouldering logs, or on their purple nails.
It was the hour when, among the bare and poor,
Unfortunates in childbed suffered all the more;
Like a wild sob cut short by foaming blood, somewhere
A distant rooster's cry tore through the misty air,
A sea of fogs that bathed the buildings and the streets,
And dying poorhouse wretches from their sad retreats
Rattled away their lives in strangulated coughs.
Love's veterans came home, broken by labours lost.

Aurora, trembling in her gown of rose and green,
Made her way slowly on the still-deserted Seine.
Old Paris rubbed his eyes, woke to the day again,
And gathered up his tools, that honest working man.

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