In another life, I was painted
Out of the picture, By the Table, 
Scummed up with oil layered like
Premature common lilac leaves 
Peering down. I am sat next to the politician,
Away from The Poets™, all trademarked, 
Separate, wearing smoky black velvet 
Someone’s wife stayed up to purify,
To make ready to warm their precious
Skins, the saints of secular sin,
Reading a book of their own poems. 

I am dedicated to Baudelaire, my life
Metamorphosized as Ovid would’ve wanted.
Here I am made useful. I am simplified, 
I only do what I have always done: I gulp
Stale oxygen and make no noise. I sit pretty,
Listen to the men debate the universe and
Tell me about myself. I wait and wait and
Wait for greatness. My leaves curl and brown,
The men grow tired of waiting for the paint
To mix, of waiting to be set on canvas, to be
Set and known and artistic. They are shaking,
Standing there, forced into stillness, they sweat
With the effort of containing themselves, of
Trying to look like they know someone will
Worship them in a hundred years. Blémont’s hand
Shakes in his coat, trying to be Napoleon (the
First), but like the Third no one remembers him.
38 years later he would give the painting away,
Give me away. I am rotting in the Musée, wasted
Space, a canvas that could have gone for some
Higher purpose than this filth, this solipsism of poets,
Thinking that they are the world because they name
It. I am a parallel growth just there for symmetry, to 
Balance everyone else’s colors. Guilty by association, 
By proximity to the doomed, the damned, by my own
Rot-core that will not reassure the man next to me
With a pretty face, a smile, a nod.

Rimbaud has the most hair, the most talent,
The men sit around him, not looking at him as
They would scorn a child. He is bored. He has already 
Killed God; there is not much else to do. I wonder if 
He has already been to Belgium, ass-fucked the balding 
Man next to him, been shot in the wrist of the writing
Hand, made simple, useless, begged again, met
The raised six-shooter in the street. His lover
Cowarded to Catholicism, and Rimbaud slipped
From French to Arabic, sold guns illegally
On the slave routes of Africa, guns that would
Shoot other wrists and make the poetry stop.
We stop in this painting, flat, almost colorless,
Un-restored, left to flaking, to the merciless breath
Of people who pass by anyways, looking for someone
Greater, recognizable. Perhaps they know Rimbaud,
But they won’t be able to see me, off-green,
Wilted. After all these years the wine on the table
Leaves sludge, the butter has soured, the 
Eyes hardened into shallow ice. The flowers
That are me have waited too long, over-drunk
On dirty water. Tomorrow they will dump
The vase out and throw me in the fire. 
The Poets will stand up, brush my leaves off,
Write another poem, another horizontal
Plea for remembrance. And me, I will burn 
Up, up, up, the painting will be covered with
Cloth, stored in a back room, and no one 
Will know that I grew before I was cut.


Sitting, left to right: Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Léon Valade, Ernest d’Hervilly and Camille Pelletan; standing, left to right: Pierre Elzéar, Emile Blémont and Jean Aicard.
Henri Fantin-Latour, Coin de table (By the Table), 1872
Lee Pelletier

Lee Pelletier is a lover of classic science fiction, surrealist films, and old French books. Lee studied English at the University of Iowa.