Robert Desnos in Havana, 1928

The birds with fiery plumage perched
like epaulets on the general's statue

And fountains where girls sun their legs
dipping their toes in the cool ripples

And the shadows of men deep as wells
into which some men fall

A man in a purple suit descends
the gangplank of an ocean liner

Carrying a steel suitcase down the boulevard
searching for a single elusive mermaid

And finding them everywhere
lounging in swimming pools by the sea

Or dozing atop water towers on towels
or rising like Venus from the claw-foot tub in a tenement

A postman on this zigzag street
is delivering envelopes filled with stars

Not stars of tinfoil or paper but the real thing
hissing with radioactivity

Glittery as the diamond dust from Angola
that the lady chauffeurs sprinkle in their hair

When they crash the masquerade ball at the Club Aureole
the intersection of high finance and high jinks

Or visit certain kiosks where aliases are sold like lottery tickets
neighborhoods in which even the mermaids disguise

Nurses and housewives concealing their gills
under breezy dresses

And ushers with glinting scales lurking
in the gloom of theaters

And tall widows prowling the fish market
with glazed eyes

A calypso dancer weeps mercury tears
scanning the Caribbean with a spyglass

From the penny arcade where the orphans pitch coins
and the whores stand like sentinels one to a doorway

Awaiting sailors off cargo ships
and off-duty detectives and even a few of those travelers