Half-Light of Dawn

by Peter Riley

Peter Riley

The reveille sang out in the yards of the barracks,
And the morning wind blew on the street lamps.

It was that time when a swarm of harmful dreams
Makes the dusky youths twist and turn on their pillows
When, like a bleeding eye that throbs as it moves
The lamp makes a red stain on the daylight
When the soul, fretted and heavy under the weight of the body,
Mimics the hostility between lamp and light.
Like a face full of tears that the breezes wipe clean,

The air is full of the tremor of vanishing things
And men and women tired of language, and tired of love.

Here and there the house chimneys began to smoke,
The women of the town, their eyelids pale,
Their mouths open, slept their stupid sleep.
The homeless old women, dragging their thin cold breasts,
Blew on the embers and blew on their fingers
It was that time when, what with the cold and the dearth
The pains increase of women in labour.

Like a sob interrupted by a froth of blood
The far cry of the cockerel tore apart the misty air,
A sea of fogs washed the buildings
And people in pain in the depths of hospitals
Let out their final rattle in uneven hiccups.
The party-goers walked on home, wrecked by their efforts.

Dawn shivering in a green dress with pink roses
Advanced slowly towards the deserted Seine,
And dark Paris, rubbing its eyes,
Reached for its tools, old working man.

Last updated July 20, 2021