For the Lovely Girl Who Took Snuf

For the Lovely Girl Who Took Snuf!

Can it be so? It once was roses, Cupid’s flowers,
you loved, or a corsage of stately tulips,
or fragrant freesias, jasmines, lilies –
you used to love them all and wear them every day
against the marble whiteness of your breast.
How can it be, my dear Kliména,
that you have changed your taste so inexplicably?…
Now what you like to smell
is not a flower, morning-fresh,
but a green toxic weed
that human industry’s
transformed into a powdery dust.
That greying German academic,
hunched in his professorial chair,
his learnèd mind immersed in Latin books –
he, as he coughs and coughs, may use his shrivelled hand
to poke the crushed tobacco up his nose.
That young moustachioed dragoon,
while sitting by his window of a morning,
still drowsy from a hangover,
may puff grey smoke from out his meerschaum pipe.
That erstwhile beauty in her sixties,
her charms away on leave, her love life terminated,
whose glamour’s now maintained by artifice alone,
upon whose body nowhere’s left unwrinkled –
she, as she slanders, prays and yawns,
may sniff tobacco dust, sure antidote to sorrow.
But you, my lovely one!… Yet if tobacco
so takes your fancy now – oh, blaze of inspiration! –
yes, I could be transmuted into dust,
incarcerated in a snuffbox,
I could be caught up on your gentle fingers;
then it would be my sweetest pleasure
to have you sprinkle me upon your breast
beneath your silken hanky – and perhaps
even – No, empty dream! That cannot be.
Why can’t harsh Fate relent enough
to let me be a pinch of snuff?

For the Lovely Girl Who Took Snuf

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