The Separation of Camille and Rodin

Auguste Rodin

No, let me turn now and go away
From your too complete fierceness.
Until you the women I loved
Remained encased in my art,
Figures I could bend in plaster, bronze,
With violence, with tenderness.

But then you burst forth,
And refusing this clay immortality
All men offer,
Deigned from the beginning
To create.

And I loved you,
Because to my sensuality you offered this
Savagery,
Female vehemence.
What in me had grown too smooth, yielding,
Discovered suddenly, in you,
A disheveled beauty that far outstripped me,
And my art became frightening.

From you I learned the craft of agony,
The torn open garden of your female genius,
That is now mine.
And what I create is ugly and essential,
The breasts of my women are inhuman,
The loins of my men collapse the world,
And those who look upon my art
Spit at its feet and turn away in contempt.

You have given me this triumph,
Returned to me stone and soil.
But I want myself back,
My languid hurt.
Your too full madness imprisons me,
And I don’t know what my art means,

For it surpasses us both
And annihilates our purpose.
No, let me turn now and go away
From your perfect love.

The Adulterers

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Three days you lay sick from what I had done,
with the knowledge of our nights inside you.
Like spilled ink that flows into atrocious purples,
they cannot be taken back.

Your maid tried to kill herself,
the shame had become like an unbearable child.
Kneeling before her confession,
she wore that thick and ugly whiteness
that spurred us both on to seize our forfeit paradise.

This world of doll-like beauty,
the weight of a thousand-year-old paper folding fans,
which we dared to destroy with our bodies’ provocations,
ranges against us now with measured ferocities.

It is now, when at last I have lost you to them
that the vision of your soiled cloaks sears me.

Through layer after layer the ink comes, irrevocable,
mixing our dark bloom of love with
finely sutured lotuses, sullen tigers, impossible cranes.

Were those robes not like exquisite chambers
which this century had meticulously prepared for you?
When the ink breached them, we both wept with joy,
for they became the one pristine debasement I could offer you.