I never had you, nor will I have you
ever, I daresay. A couple of words, a closeness
as in the bar two days ago, and nothing else.
It is, I don’t deny it, a pity. But we who belong to Art
sometimes — with intensity of mind, and of course only
for a little while — create a pleasure
that gives the impression of being almost real.
So it was in the bar two days ago — with a good deal of help,
besides, from some merciful alcohol —
I had half an hour that was utterly erotic.
And it seems to me you understood,
and you stayed somewhat longer purposely.
It was rather necessary, that. Because
for all the imagination, for all the liquor’s a magician,
I needed to see your lips as well,
needed to have your body close to me.
Text: Half an Hour, 1917, unpublished poem
from C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems, translated by Daniel Mendelsohn
Image: photographer, subject unknown, via exupery/ipernity