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  • David Ball

Rimbaud on the parkfield campus

David Ball

Photo by Anand Thakur on Unsplash

I mount with difficulty the two short flights of stairs. Oh, castles, seasons!

Returning from Harrar – the horror!

Having paused frequently for gulps of breath, I check my mail. Nothing.

Down my back and shoulders I feel the weight of a colonial rifle, strapped

across my chest with a broad bandoulière.

A class awaits me. I stagger, in retreat, to my office, to collect my notes. My

foot is bleeding afresh, which may wash away some of the stench.

They’re a small class, all girls: they’ll have read the texts. I sweep my

crumpled hat from my head and bow before them. In courtesy? Submission? Derision?

Will no one speak to me the words of liberation?

As I lecture to them on slavery, the desert, gun-running and elephant-hunts on

horseback, their eyes become the soft dark eyes of Abyssinian maids.

Ivory, creamy white, you shall have it, and sleep both day and night within

Ophelia’s arms!

Boldly I cross my legs, but the sudden stab of stinking, reminding pain

overwhelms me. Into silence. As best I can, I must quit the room, my jaws clenching

tightly, fiercely, against the welling tears.


David Ball is a retired teacher of English living in France, where he reads, writes, translates and is active in a number of associations, mostly in some way literary. He regularly translates two contemporary French poets, and his translations, as well as his own poems, have appeared in a variety of journals. He has published two books of haiku, one bilingual and the other in French. A third book, a long poem, Dans le bois de Miss Harrington, is due to be published this year.


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