“Late harvests” – “Wages of sin” – “Right in the middle” – “Passageways”

Late harvests

It was this time of year when leaves
are ripe with air and sun,
when from the sting of sadness heaves
the breast that smolders stun;

and soon the dullness wrapped the earth;
and soon the dampness oozed
on brows from pallid sights the dearth
of hope in hearts infused.

The fruits were quietly amassed
of years of grinding teeth,
and as they slept, at last,
the pains of men beneath

the sky of cobwebbed stars took rest.
And from their nap were born
new worlds in storms of spawn undressed,
and from there drawn, and torn.

Those pretty, shiny bubbles can’t
sustain the touch bedewed
of winter air: deboned, they aren’t
prepared to face the crude

reality, and under rays
of night grown pale, they burst,
blow up in sobs: a whole world strays
from ruined age, sips first

from backminds, to foretaste the dream
of purer waters, blessed
with ignorance. A crow, downstream,
picks up the doubts that nest

up-river, where untruth unwinds,
and desperate sighs ascend.
That wave reflecting suns reminds
weak souls that aches will end.

Wages of sin

We keep our flies inside.
They dance and, forming swarms,
they hide the sun. No light
can pierce that curtain drawn
on life when they abide
in bodies warm… Their cyan,
gold hues and shades abound
in brilliance. Now it’s obvious:
a gnawing kiss is love,
and though we feel obliged
for the embrace, no tear,
nor smile of gladness will
reduce the lips of ulcers:
they widen, gape with glee:
“They’re gone, the filthy lice!
along with the ‘I am’!”

Right in the middle

As youth was fleeing, dear, mosquitos overcame
your self-possession. No, it didn’t quench your flame,
for life was good. My claim, late fantasy, is based
on tales off-camera, lens blinded, times erased
from memory and I, intentionally dumb,
pretend I know and can envision, as they come,

your days and hours. I keep beheading future hopes
methodically: the sea of lies—way down the slopes
of past betrayals, sailed beyond the reach of light,
now shoreless as winds die, becalmed as falls the night
of reason—takes its toll. You’re not immune: you’re stained

by crowds unleashed. Please, stop belittling their trained
ingenuousness: they take revenge for the offense
not given, telling you of sins that make no sense—
beliefs of maniac wretches that haste decay.
They’ll reign on piles of ash. Nivôse stretches away.

I’m veering, erring, foam resisting all around.
Those empty bubbles I oppose as they abound
submerge me. I can’t bail mischief out. Can you breathe?
I’m drowning. Break that spell! Another wave will seethe
with angry madness. I imagined I could save
your fancied innocence none of them should deprave.

Was I too late? Then stab, pierce, burn my bones and skin.
A little while ago, as qualms kept growing thin
around a sinner’s sob, dead-and-alive I walked
and roamed the worn-out orb. Effacement seemed so sweet
and easy. You defy le sens profond des mythes,

those stories from the crib, pale beacons in the dark.
Is there still time for fear ere dies the silent spark
and I must let you go, undisturbed and unbalked?
Let’s revel in the flow, ’cause nothing now but grace
can purity regain. Have I seen your real face?

Passageways

The dreamers whispered of mysterious gates,
appeared in various places. In the night,
the rumor spread. We listened to accounts
of color-drained and monochrome, low-key
still lifes and landscapes, inland, where
the ancient heathens congregated. Evergreens
all coaled and sooted, blackened, stood
there, towering stiffly, quietly, over valleys,
forgotten villages where echoed bells
from ruins long since blown away by time’s
winds. Artworks were there: you’d think bloomed like flowers,
ripened like fruits. All bore the signs
of mastery, and of real craftsmanship.
They seemed like windows opening onto
strange and mirific worlds, wild sightings
hanging on trees, like nature’s pores,
like holes that pierced reality’s translucent skin.
Amongst us, one by one, the bravest stepped through
the shivering frames, and melted into paint.
All of a sudden, as they touched their surfaces
and vanished, colors anew, irradiate, came
back, flew again and nurtured, filled, the empty
contour, devoid of shading, plain and dull,
the countryside had been ashamedly turned into.
The hamlets, all restored—dilapidated walls
rebuilt, the fields resown—entropic forces
seemed kept at bay. Lionhearted young explorers
endeavored to retrieve their predecessors.
Their fate was puzzling, enigmatic.
We didn’t find them, unsurprisingly:
they’d shut the paintings, closed the gates.
They’d gone beyond our help…

Romain P.-A. Delpeuch was born in southwest France, where he still lives. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in New English ReviewTerror House Magazine and The Ekphrastic Review.