For Angela Livingstone

Come on postie, go!
Off with you to Rue Balzac –
Hurry, or I’ll let your boss know –
Home of Hérédia, the hack.

Alright, Professor Mallarmé,
No need to threaten me –
The things I could let your boss know –
But why should I stoop so low?

Stop lazing in the marram,
Naïve distributor, chivvy
Along now, run to Madame
Manet, past Meulan, at Mézy.

I’ve other folk to deal with too,
Naïve professor, not just you,
As for Mézy, not my round,
I’ll pass it on to Outward Bound.

In his coat of astrakhan,
To keep out the winds of jealousy,
Monsieur François Coppée in Caen,
Rue des Chanoines, is it three?

You tell me – I don’t know Caen,
Nor Coppée, whether in astrakhan,
Or naked as the day he was born,
Lying on his back, pate shorn.

Pick up your old zimmer-frame
Postie (Come on, out the door!),
Run to the doctor, Robin’s his name,
At Rue Saint-Pétersbourg, 4.

It’s you, not me, needs the quack
Old man. What’s it this time? An ache
In the back? Or the chest? Or just
Too much marking – you need a rest?

Don’t be impertinent, postman,
We need him at once for Anatole.
He has a serious condition –

Endocardite streptoccale.

Apologies, sir, I meant no harm,
I didn’t know there was cause for alarm.
I’ll leave at once, with all due haste,
And send it urgent – post chaise.

Stop, postman, when you light upon
The screeching sound of cellos,
It’s the house of Ernest Chausson,
22 Boulevard de Courcelles.

Okay, okay, don’t get excited,
Screeching of cellos, is it?
I’d better put my ear-plugs in,
Protect me from the din.

Run, oh my desire! off with you
Search out librarians at home,
One is Alexander Souque, Rue,
About fifty-two, de Rome.

Are you quite serious, professor?
Search out librarians at home?
Just how many should I look for,
Once I’ve finished the Rue de Rome?

Out of my park
This message flees:
Auguste Neymark
Ten Cité Trévise.

What park would that be, Mallarmé?
Perhaps – ahem! – you mean parquet?
Whatever the case, your humble servant
Flies to Neymark: message urgent.

Pont de l’Arche, chez Monsieur Mirbeau,
            As you pass Les Damps, postman,
Drop this by as you go,
Then tarry a little, while you can.

Tarry a little? Who? Me?
Just now it was all hurry, hurry,
Why this sudden change of tone?
If it’s late, you’ll be the first to moan.

To that house of cheer, Gaillard’s,
Who makes a present of his laugh
And burns, as well as hearts, floorboards
In performing at the Golden Calf.

Is he a muso, Mallarmé?
Or a Romeo come arsonist?
If he’s so gifted, why does he play
To an audience that’s half pissed?

Run along, postman, ask for –
So that he’ll grace my lawn, then go –
Monsieur François Coppée, one of the
Forty, twelve Rue Odinot.

There you go again, Mallarmé,
Do you think my feet aren’t killing me
As it is? Grace your lawn indeed!
Along with all those other weeds …

I said run along, not hang a-
Bout, so hurry up and go –
Monsieur Françcois Coppée, one of the
Forty, twelve Rue Odinot.

One of the forty what, in any case?
I’ve heard of cramped rooms, up in the eaves,
But this is quite ridiculous,
Like Ali-Baba and the 40 thieves.

Oh, how obtuse these postmen are,
Must I add footnotes to every letter?
He’s one of the forty painters,
In the
Académie Française.

Ah, I had no idea, sir,
Sorry, I’ll be on my way –
Mustn’t keep the painter
Waiting, now he’s one of the forty.

At Avenue, 1-3-7,
Malakoff, she who stole the light,
Madame Tola Dorian,
From heaven’s dark night.

You mean she’s a dazzling beauty?
An after-hours stunner, a knockout?
Then why not just say it, Mallarmé,
And stop this pissing about?

Go, postman, with that mane you have
Carrying a joyful song
To my very dear friend Octave

Flatter me, Monsieur, all you like,
You know damn well my hairs are white,
And my song a melancholy lay –
Rest assured, this won’t get delivered today.

Touched by Redon,
Vampire casts your humerus
Only a fallacious eiderdown,
27 Rue, oh Night! de Fleurus.

Eiderdown? Humerus? Vampire?
What the hell’s he on about now?
He’s been reading too much of that literature:
Bram – what’s his name? – Lefanu.

11 Rue de Sèvres (are you afraid?)
A nice pad where Satan spends the day,
And gets treated like an old mate
By Huÿsmans, whom he calls J.K.

I’m quaking in my boots, sir, as you speak,
Stop now, I feel my knees go weak!
Please, oh please, don’t send me there –
To Huÿsmans, to satan, to despair …

Quick, to Boulevard Lannes, nine,
Toss this paper so they can see
What I’ve been doing with my time –
In the letterbox hidden by ivy.

Hidden by Ivy was that, sir?
Have they got something to hide then, or
Is it just that they’re between
Gardeners, if you see what I mean.

Gardeners, gardeners? What’s that you say?
Stop mumbling, man – on your way!
Are you insinuating something?
I certainly don’t see what you mean.

Sorry I spoke, sir, I’ll be off,
I’ll take your note (to those idle toffs),
I’ll leave it in the letter box,
And leave you to your books.

Postman, you’ll have to get
Your tunic of Elbeuf green
To hear the nest of fauvettes,
Singing at Boulevard Lannes, 9.

Why so excited, Mallarmé,
I only called there yesterday.
And song was not the main attraction,
There are worldlier satisfactions.

I imagine Cazalis,
The sombre lyre with its Theban
Airs, surrounded by azaleas,
Drinking at home, Aix-les-Bains.

I imagine his liver,
Swollen like a tidal river –
Bloated organ smothered in fat,
Like a drowning rat.

Off to the Mayor’s, Beurdeley’s,
Rare spirit, agreeable mein,
To sixty-four if you please
Rue de Rome – also mine.

So why not take it round yourself?
It’s cheaper, and it’s good for the health.
Haven’t you heard of hand delivery?
Do what I do, without the livery.

Off you go, messenger, whether
By tram, coach or on horseback,
To number 2 Rue Gounod, the
Door of our friend Rodenbach.

Hold your horses, poet,
I’m on foot – you didn’t know it?
Let’s hope this parcel’s light,
Or I might not get the address right.

What was that? Do my ears deceive me?
You’re going to throw it in the hedge?
If you dare, your boss’ll be
Informed – consider that a pledge.

Not so fast, sir, only jokong –
Just a way we have of talking! –
Anything that goes in my sack
Reaches its destination – that’s a fact.

Clermont-Ferrand, in the Puy-de-Dôme –
Morning, leave it there discreetly.
This letter that’s almost a tome,
For Hector Giacometti.

This is one for the coach, old man,
Not one I’ll deliver by hand.
Just one word of warning –
It won’t be off by morning.

Rue, oh games! de la Barouillère,
Eight, Gabrielle Wrotnowska,
Who fills an antic giant’s lair
With her laugh like a harmonica.

Strange game, professor,
Whose price I pay in shoe leather,
Do you know how much it costs …
Ah, thankyou kindly, sir, I’m off.

Everything, and her laugh, vanishes,
Gabrielle Wrotnowska couldn’t wait,
Reduced to fleeting memories
Rue far from la Barouillère, eight.

Buggered off has she professor?
Women, aren’t they all the same –
Now they’re in Paris, now Odessa –
Always in search of the next old flame.

Oh! This wonderful man! Tell me
Who he is? Racine? Molière?
No, it’s Jules Wrotnowski,
8, Rue Barouillère.

Well, for such an important man
We’d better get out the gold embossed van,
The one that’s pulled by fairy horses,
And escorted by the armed forces.

Hide in the muff of marten,
Not held out in impish finger,
This note for André Desboutin,
Impasse Guelma, 7, Montmartre.

Why, is this some secret note?
There’s a fee for that – want a quote?
Thankyou, sir. Only to Monsieur?
Upon my honour, rest assured.

This address written in heat,
Post it, or I’ll grab your collar,
To seventy-five – Margueritte
Liber – Rue Nollet, round the corner.

Why so hot under the collar, sir?
Another one for the marten’s fur?
I’ll take it round straight away,
Much obliged – I’m on my way.

At this rate, he’ll soon have fleeced me,
Better try some other tack,
Give him a stern look in the eye,
A harsh word, so he can’t answer back.

What’s that he’s muttering?
He must be planning something –
Next time he’ll claim he’s skint,
Looking at me with his poet’s squint.

You’ll get a boot in the groin
Postie, if you don’t go
Find my dreaming friend Verlaine,
Hôpital Broussais, rue Didot.

Boot me in the groin would you?
Stop! Help! Get off! A curse on you!
Now who’s going to deliver your notes
To obscure Parnassian poets?

Their industrious greyhound,
Deliver to the Manet ladies’ pound
– at Portrieux, Côtes-du-Nord,
La Roche-plate – this letter.

Out of my jurisdiction,
What with my recent affliction.
I’d sooner eat my hat
Than walk all the way to La Roche-plate.

Those who stick with noble bronze,
Scornful of zinc, shall with beauty
Be printed at Paul Perrin’s –
Des Augustins, five and thirty.

Are you trying to say he’s a printer, mate?
Why not just say it out straight?
Opposed to new technology?
So why do you keep bugging me?

Stalwart servant of the state, postman,
There’s a place I’d like you to depart
For at once, 9 Boulevard Lannes,
To the house that stands apart.

All politeness, now, professor?
All right, I’ll take it to the dame,
It’s between you and your confessor.
(We all know she’s on the game.)

Postman, give this word you carry
Honouring the fifteenth of August
To Madame Laurent (Méry)
(The house with the Roman bust).

I’m off, I’m off, I dare not tarry,
To take your note to Madame (Méry),
Honouring the fifteenth of August,
(And her incomparable bust).

Madame the proprietress
Of 9 Boulevard Lannes, quarter
Of spacious and solitary greenness,
From which my thoughts never wander.

Madame, oh so pretentious,
9 Boulevard Lannes, quarter
Of endless and tedious pavements
On which my feet forever wander.

Letter, go to your destination,
Without getting lost on the way,
Ruette Belgique – by the station –
To Monsieur Pierre Sosset.

It won’t get lost if I can help it, sir,
Unless it gets stuck in the marten’s fur,
Or I’m hit by a train, near the station,
En route to my destination.

Victor Margueritte. Postman, go!
Catch him in your net as you pass
Rue – is it Bellepêche? – no,
It’s forty-two Bellechasse.

Make up your mind, Monsieur Mallarmé,
I can’t be standing here all day,
Is it Bellepêche or Bellechasse, eh?
Tell me straight and I’ll be on my way.

Wrapped up in your warm gaberdeen,
Read this note, when you get it,
Out loud; 6 Cour Saint-François,
Rue, is it Moreau? dear Verlaine.

Cour Saint-François? There’s a hundred of those,
I’ll never find it, without the road,
Is it or isn’t it Moreau, sir?
Tell me straight, and with douceur.

All month long Paul Margueritte’s –
If the woods don’t dry up and burn –
To be found in the Haut-Samois streets,
Département de Seine-et-Marne.

Very nice for him too, I’m sure –
We’d all enjoy a month’s retreat –
But where’s he staying, number 5? 10? 4?
I can’t be chasing about in this heat.

I dream, Rue 2-1-9
Saint-Honoré, at Portalier’s place,
Where the clientele would whine
If you, verse, should show your face.

I shouldn’t think they’d be too chuffed
To see me neither, sir,
What with me knackered and out of puff,
Dragging my muff of marten’s fur.

Off with you, postman from hell,
To the Editor of Decadence,
Léon Vanier, Quai Saint-Michel
Number nineteen – caper, leap, danse!

My dancing days are done, sir,
You should know that, for sure,
But I’ll limp over as best I can,
And pin down this devilish man.

I kiss the hand of Durand,
              Quick postman up with you,
Tell it to seventy-six on
Rue – with the tall houses – Taitbout.

Alright, Monsieur, I’m on my way,
Mustn’t stand on ceremony,
I’ll take it straight to Madame Durand,
And tell her you wish to kiss her … hand.

Rue – unique – de la Paix, 12, this
Is for Madame Virot,
Envy of all Europe, in Paris,
Break into a trot as you go.

Into a trot? Into a trot?
You mistake me for a pony, sir!
I’m certainly not, certainly not!
In that all France will concur.

Nancy, postman.
                             Let’s be quick,
To Adolphine Godfrin’s, now go,
In the Trois-maisons district,
Which is covered in light snow.

If it’s covered in snow
Then the coach won’t go.
Orders from the top –
Wait till it stops.

So I send, his greatest fan,
This word to Hérold, Ferdinand,
1-3-2 Boulevard Saint-Germain,
And firmly shake his hand.

So I carry, for remuneration,
This word to Ferdinand Hérold,
Armed with cap and muff of marten,
Against the bitter January cold.

Princess Poniatowska’s,
Sledge – twenty-two Avenue
Du Bois, and don’t forget to
Cover up the hoary mirrors.

What’s all this about mirrors, sir,
Is the old lady a vampire, or
Is she afraid of seeing her reflection,
With all its wrinkles and imperfections?

Pull from your sack of malice
Jolly postman, so all can see,
My best wishes for Madame Alice

Malice is it now, Monsieur?
Much obliged to you, I’m sure,
I’ll leave your wishes on the mat,
To be toyed with by Madame’s cat.

Marthe Duvivier, white feather
Shadowing a hat in brown.
Her voice pours out like a river
One, Rue Pierre – so broad – Charron.

If her voice pours forth like a river,
Then I’ll be in need of a boat,
And if the road’s as broad as a delta,
I’ll need someone to row it.

This word, without further prefix
Take to the Marquise de Trévise
At Place de l’Opéra, 6,
Club where they chatter and wheeze.

At your service, Monsieur Mallarmé,
To the Marquise, without delay,
I’m sure he’ll cherish a little note,
Especially from a hard-up poet.

If you don’t want me to die
Hurry couriers – be speedy! –
To where my friend Montant resides,
I think it’s 8 Rue Halévy.

Why the hurry, Monsieur Mallarmé,
Isn’t he a journalist?
He’ll be out having his déjeuner,
Probably already half pissed.

Drop this writing, as you pass,
At the journal le Télégraphe,
It’s for Monsieur André Terras,
A name that needs no paraph.

I’ve never heard of this layabout,
Some upstart hack, without a doubt,
He must be mad to take your verse,
Incomprehensible scribbles, and worse.

Hold this word in your hand, postman,
So Émilie Willaume will answer
At sixteen, Prêtres-Saint-Germain
L’Auxerrois, behind the Louvre.

Some special word is this, Monsieur?
(Some airy preciousness, I’m sure)
I’ll take it there with all due haste –
Just for a glimpse of her hourglass waist.

When the amaranthine dawn looks
Over the bois, take these books
To Madame Eugène Manet
Rue, over there, Villejust, 40.

Amaranthine what, professor?
Over the bois? Take these books?
Madame … how will I know its her?
By her clothes, by her mein, by her looks?

Postmen, flush out from nineteen
Cambacérès, the man behind the settee
On whom every lady is keen,
His name: Petitbois, Henri.

Post-men is it? You mean bring your mates?
He must be one of those mad poets.
The ladies swarm like bees to honey?
He’s worth a lot of money.

Handle this box with care –
And deliver in like fashion –
To Charles Béranger, ministère,
At Place Vendôme, eleven.

Why, is it going to explode?
Or does it contain a poisonous ode?
I’m sure we’ll never know,
He won’t even open it when I go.

Smile, postie! and look your best
As you toss this hazardous letter
To Monsieur Eugène Geneste,
42, Rue du Chemin Vert.

What, another letter bomb?
Why deliver it with such aplomb?
Isn’t he an engineer?
Best have it out over a beer.

Mademoiselle Stéphanie,
So as to get her a man,
Oh tortoise banished unjustly!
From 9, Boulevard Lannes.

Stéphanie! Mademoiselle!
That really takes the biscuit!
Delivering mail to a tortoise, hell,
Is this some kind of piss-take?

Monsieur Mallarmé. How perverse
To flee from us, in search of calm;
Oh, postman, go with this verse
To Valvins, Avon, Seine-et-Marne.

Excuse me, Monsieur Mallarmé,
Are you feeling quite yourself today?
The addressee of this here note,
Is Stéphane Mallarmé, poet.