The Ballad of Rimbaud & Verlaine in Camden Town

by William Wall


what days we had

never thinking on nights

the way the wind blew up the river

or down as the case may be

that bitter rain in Lyme Street

trying to start a flame

in the humble shelter of a doorway

when the madam came out to complain


the dogs of the street knew us

they licked our sores

we made our bargain with the furies

we heard them sing


& we agreed a price

taking our pleasure as it came

& in the nature of things

the price must be paid

despair is our victory now


that winter you found a wolf

hiding in the ladies

he spat blood

you gave him everything


he came prepared 

to be your dream wolf

he slept between us

like the future

smelling of wet dog

smelling of blood

& who knows what else

in the long nights he was love


we may have lost our way

that winter you found a wolf

in July you told me the truth

it was a bullet in my left hand

& I knew what would befall us then


you are a child crying in the street

a dove on the black winding river

a nestling on a ledge 

for whom falling is flying

a sign warning of a dangerous bridge

& the crazy flood

& a drowned cellar

the noises you make in despair

are the noises of the subterranean stream

& your silence

is the silence of the stalking dog