Le Crépuscule du matin

La diane chantait dans les cours des casernes,
Et le vent du matin soufflait sur les lanternes.

C'était l'heure où l'essaim des rêves malfaisants
Tord sur leurs oreillers les bruns adolescents;
Où, comme un oeil sanglant qui palpite et qui bouge,
La lampe sur le jour fait une tache rouge;
Où l'âme, sous le poids du corps revêche et lourd,
Imite les combats de la lampe et du jour.
Comme un visage en pleurs que les brises essuient,
L'air est plein du frisson des choses qui s'enfuient,
Et l'homme est las d'écrire et la femme d'aimer.

Les maisons çà et là commençaient à fumer.
Les femmes de plaisir, la paupière livide,
Bouche ouverte, dormaient de leur sommeil stupide;
Les pauvresses, traînant leurs seins maigres et froids,
Soufflaient sur leurs tisons et soufflaient sur leurs doigts.
C'était l'heure où parmi le froid et la lésine
S'aggravent les douleurs des femmes en gésine;
Comme un sanglot coupé par un sang écumeux
Le chant du coq au loin déchirait l'air brumeux
Une mer de brouillards baignait les édifices,
Et les agonisants dans le fond des hospices
Poussaient leur dernier râle en hoquets inégaux.
Les débauchés rentraient, brisés par leurs travaux.

L'aurore grelottante en robe rose et verte
S'avançait lentement sur la Seine déserte,
Et le sombre Paris, en se frottant les yeux
Empoignait ses outils, vieillard laborieux.

— Charles Baudelaire


Outside the barracks now the bugle called, and woke
The morning wind, which rose, making the lanterns smoke.

It was that hour when tortured dreams of stealthy joys
Twist in their beds the thin brown bodies of growing boys;
When, like a blood-shot eye that blinks and looks away,
The lamp still burns, and casts a red stain on the day;
When the soul, pinned beneath the body's weight and brawn,
Strives, as the lamplight strives to overcome the dawn;
The air, like a sad face whose tears the breezes dry,
Is tremulous with countless things about to die;
And men grow tired of writing, and women of making love.

Blue smoke was curling now from the cold chimneys of
A house or two; with heavy lids, mouths open wide,
Prostitutes slept their slumber dull and stupefied;
While laborers' wives got up, with sucked-out breasts, and stood
Blowing first on their hands, then on the flickering wood.
It was that hour when cold, and lack of things they need,
Combine, and women in childbirth have it hard indeed.

Like a sob choked by frothy hemorrhage, somewhere
Far-off a sudden cock-crow tore the misty air;
A sea of fog rolled in, effacing roofs and walls;
The dying, that all night in the bare hospitals
Had fought for life, grew weaker, rattled, and fell dead;
And gentlemen, debauched and drunk, swayed home to bed.

Aurora now in a thin dress of green and rose,
With chattering teeth advanced. Old somber Paris rose,
Picked up its tools, and, over the deserted Seine,
Yawning, rubbing its eyes, slouched forth to work again.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

I was awake at dawn this morning. A grey light smeared itself across the wall and I could hear the birds begin their vicious territorial chatter. Rimed in a cold sweat and struggling with half remembered nightmares, I stared at the ceiling. Some days time catches up with you: some days you catch up with time.

Last week was hard in many ways: so many things still unresolved; so many others resolved, but not as I would want them. I keep learning things about myself, dredging up strengths and frailties from the past and re-incorporating them -or looking at them with a surgical eye and considering them for amputation.

The darkest time for me is the dawn: when the first light wakes me, I feel disoriented and have to piece myself together bit by bit. My body feels strange to me, on this unfamiliar mattress. I look at my hands for comfort: they are still the same, still the hands I have used to feel the world, to gesture, to shield, to make love, to make fists, to write, to rip apart, to grab, to let go. Maybe I try to handle too much? I don't know, but I made this bed and I shall lie in it...