So Patti Smith bought Arthur Rimbaud’s childhood home to keep it from collapse, and this really put me in the mood for some Une Saison en Enfer. Sadly, my copy is in Alaska or PA or with a friend, so I turned to the next best thing, The Coral Sea, Smith’s ode to her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe.
I’ve always loved the prose-poem “To The Reader.”
The first time I saw Robert he was sleeping. I stood over him, this boy of twenty, who sensing my presence opened his eyes and smiled. With few words he became my friend, my compeer, my beloved adventure.
I’ve yet to encounter a better definition of friendship. Here’s the rest:
When he became ill I wept and could not stop weeping. He scolded me for that, not with words but with a simple look of reproach, and I ceased.
When I saw him last we sat in silence and he rested his head on my shoulder. I watched the light changing over his hands, over his work, and over the whole of our lives. Later, returning to his bed, we said goodbye. But as I was leaving something stopped me and I went back to his room. He was sleeping. I stood over him, a dying man, who sensing my presence opened his eyes and smiled.
When he passed away I could not weep so I wrote. Then I took the pages and set them away. Here are those pages, my farewell to my friend, my adventure, my unfettered joy.