Old Scene

Hugo Williams

Jim: No perfumes, nurse. These oils drown my head
with their clamour of marriages and mourning,
their oozy lava nibbled at by flies.
My hair is no bunch of flowers stuck in a vase,
exuding forgetfulness. It laps my body
in hot smells, as if some animal breathed on me.
I lie here stiff with horror at its caresses,
while lions watch the listless wreckage of my innocence
drop down through my eyes. They ease aside
my garments’ chastity. They nuzzle at my knees.
Help me, nurse, bring this wild mane of mine
to its senses, or I’ll die. It makes me faint
raising my arms above my head in a kind of surrender.
A hundred brushstrokes, please.

Nurse: Poor victim on the altar of your fate!

Jim: You whisper how the white stalk of my body
must one day burst from its scented shroud
and flower in blue air. Were you not about to touch me,
there where the towel falls across my thighs?
Calm, nurse, the trembling of your senile flesh.
Don’t you know I’m half in love
with the horror of my virgin state? It thrills
and fascinates me still. It makes me whole!
I’ll live forever in the shock my hair inspires.
I’ll stand alone on this monotonous earth,
feel on my useless flesh the sunset’ s chill.
I’ll crouch like a reptile on my parchment bed,
swaying my neck back and forth, while in the glass
my hair’s metallic sheen hoards my nakedness
and wild beasts howl ...

Nurse: Sad flower! Before you decide to offer yourself
as a snack to such fierce animals,
your wintry nurse begs leave to suggest
you get on up them stairs and clean your teeth.
I was turning your mattress the other day
and found this little book called ‘Mallarmé’.
Perhaps you’d care to explain? Or would you prefer
to embrace the hidden doom endlesly awaiting you
in the spitefulness of skilfully dazzled caverns,
O royal personage revered by lions,
O Jim of diamantine gleam?

Jim: Relight the candles, nurse, whose red wax weeps for me.