A few days later, my dad received word from one of our friends inviting him down to Saint-Raphaël for a drink. He got us in on it straight away, excited to get some distance from this voluntary and basically forced solitude we were living in. So I told Sal and Elsa that we’d be at the Sun Bar at seven and that, if they wanted to come, they’d see us there. Unfortunately Elsa knew the friend in question, which meant she was even keener to come. I guessed there would be complications and tried to dissuade her. What a waste of effort.Continue reading
The Apt Little Ones (1926)
She always refuses to understand, to hear,
she laughs to hide her terror of herself
she has always walked under the night’s arches
and everywhere she goes
the imprint of broken things
The next morning, I took my dad on a walk down the road. We were upbeat and talked a lot, but not about anything in particular. On the way back to the villa I suggested we go through the pine wood. It was exactly half ten, I made sure. My dad was walking ahead of me because the path was narrow and full of brambles, and he was pushing them back as we went so I wouldn’t scratch my legs. When I saw him stop, I knew he’d seen them. I came up behind him. Salil and Elsa were sleeping, laid out on the pine needles, looking rugged and happy – I mean I told them to do that, but when I saw them I felt devastated. Elsa’s love for my dad, Sal’s love for me, could that have stopped them? They were equally beautiful, equally young, and so close to each other… I glanced at my dad, he was looking at them intensely, without moving, and he was strangely pale. I held his arm:
– Let’s not wake them, let’s go.Continue reading
Quiet world of rundown homes
Of night and fields
Good faces ready for fire faces ready for full speed
For refusing the night, for injuries, for impacts
Faces ready for anything
Here comes the void to fix you
Your death’s going to be an example
The death overthrown heart
They’ve made you pay in bread
Sky earth water sleep
And the misery
Of your life
They say want good intelligence
They ration the strong judge the mad
Make charity divide one penny
They salute dead bodies
They barrage themselves with niceties
They persevere they exaggerate they are not of our world
Women children have the same treasure
Of spring-green leaves and pure milk
And of legacy
In their clear eyes
Women children have the same treasure
In the eyes
Some men have defended it if they could
Women children have the same pink roses
In the eyes
Each one lets out its blood
Fear and courage to live and to die
Death so difficult and so easy
Those for whom this treasure was sung
Those for whom this treasure was gashed
Those whose despair
Enrages the desolate flames of hope
Let’s crack open together the last bud of the future
Outcasts the death the soil and the disgust
Of our enemies has the dull
Colour of our night
We will defeat it.
Though it’s had a rough start, I think that social media will end up making us more dialogic, willing to consider other points and views. The same patchy start was true of the printing press, of books and pamphlets, right? It will take hundreds of years having all the impact it will have, and may never finish impacting us. Has the printer finished with us yet? Probably not.
I am a man in the emptiness
Deaf Blind Mute
On an immense pedestal of black silence
Nothing This oblivion without end
This perfection, a repeated zero…
The day is clean of work, and the night is pure
Sometimes, I wear your sandals,
and I step towards you
Sometimes I put on your dress
and then: I have your breasts, your stomach
So, okay, I see myself under your mask
And I know myself
Yves Bonnefoy was a poet who worked in the french language in the second half of the twentieth century. He died last year. Here is my translation of the short series called “Anti-Plato” first published in 1947.
Disclaimer: I am not yet fluent in french, I translate in order to learn. That said, if you notice what you might call a ridiculous error, feel free to offer your corrected translation for my perusal.
What it’s really about is this object: a horse’s head, bigger than usual. Encrusted with a whole city, roads and defenses run between its eyes, hugging the twisting, turning, lengthening muzzle. Someone knew how to build this town out of wood and cardboard, how it should be lit by a real moon, It’s really about this object: the spinning wax head of a woman all tousled up on top of a phonograph.
All things from here, the willow country, frock country, stone country, that is: the country where the water runs over willow and stone, the country of dirtied frock-coats. All this laughter wrapped in blood, I tell you, traffickers of the timeless, you symmetrical faces you, forgetful of the gaze, weighs heavier in our minds than any of these perfect ideas which know only how to slowly bleed out in our mouths.
The horrendous weapon, a shadow-horned axe carried over the stones,
Weapon of the pallor and scream when you turn, wounded in your festival dress,
an axe because it’s time for time to draw away on the nape of your neck,
O heavy, with all the weight of a country in your hands the weapon falls.
What sense to give to this: a man form of wax and colours the sham-copy of a woman, the shield-guard of all resemblances, the necessity of living, given to it by a clever game of lights this doubt on the edge of the movement, the movement which expresses the smile.
Then arming itself with a torch, abandoning the entire body to the caprice of the flames, aiding the deformation, the bursting of the flesh, projecting at once a thousand possible figures, lighting-up in the process a horde of monsters, feeling like a knife the cut and thrust of this funereal dialectic where the blood statue is born again and divides itself in the infatuation of the wax, of the colours?
The blood country goes on under the frock in a perpetually black rush
When we speak, here begins the night-flesh and gets bogged down in sand, the wrong paths
And you, madame scholar, you dig for the light of the brightest lamps of the flock,
and end up tipping over backwards onto the threshold of death’s bland country.
Imprisoned in a room, in a noise, a person shuffles cards. On one: “Eternity, I despise you”, on another “Let this instant free me”
And on yet another, a third, they write “essential death”. So they walk on time’s rift, lit up by their wound.
We are in precisely one country on the mouth of the earth,
You, with one burst of melt-water thanks to the foliage,
and this one which we call “me”, when the day dims
and the gates open and we speak of death.
Nothing can tear him from this obsession with the black chamber. Perched on a cistern, he tries to still the face under the water’s surface: but as always the lip’s movement triumphs.
Dismasted face, distressed, sinking face, is it enough to just touch her teeth, will she then die? At the passage of my fingers she could smile, like sand collapsing under footsteps.
Imprisoned between two thieves with green scorched surfaces
And your stony head, open to the wind’s drapes and tapestries
I watch you enter into summer (like a funereal mantis into the canvas of black grass)
I hear you cry out from summer’s rear.
Someone said: dig this piece of loose earth until your teeth meet a stone.
Sensible only to the modulations, to transitions, the quiverings of balance, to the presence already given away by its explosions from everywhere, they look for the coolness of invasive death, they easily overcome a youthless eternity, a perfection without burning.
Time boils around this rock. O, to have touched this stone: the lamps of the world turn, the hidden light moves on.