Robert Gibbons

Giving Rimbaud a Lift


He arrived after midnight from a forgotten photograph, or one never taken, a composite of those seen throughout years of reading: Rimbaud, black, charred. Didn’t recognize him in the dream, fearing an arsonist ready to spread accelerant on the floor, light it with spark, or word. Twice he approached in African guise. Had I known it was him I wouldn’t have yelled in terror, but in my recoil, the dread of being burned alive, my wife had to shake me out of this potential Hell.


I believe it was Rimbaud. In the morning I looked up his death date to see if that were the occasion for his ritual visit, knowing full-well the day of his birth. If that weren’t it, what about the worse fate: amputation? That’s it! Three days from this calendar date well over a century ago two doctors & two interns with knives & a bow-saw lopped off his right leg thigh-high. No writing equals that cut. Rimbaud in the dream, no mask. Arrived in the port of Marseille on the twentieth of a merciless May, 1891, gangrenous leg incinerated exactly one week later.


Of course many people will doubt this claim, “Why would Rimbaud visit him?” For years I’ve imagined such possibility, hoping for cordial handshake on rue Monsieur le Prince late at night, half-deranged, hallucinogenic with his ghost. But no, he shows up the incendiary, criminal invalid! Rimbaud still needs help. When I told my wife about meeting him, & the reason for the scream from which she woke me, she said she’d been dreaming, too, that I was driving with my foot.  Driving the car with my foot on the steering wheel.