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Three Poems


ISSUE:  Autumn 1977
47 Boulevard Lannes
 

Boulevard Lannes what are you doing so far out in space
With your garbage carts pulled by draught horses plodding
    one behind another,
Their nostrils in eternity
And their tails sweeping aside the dawn?
The driver follows, his whip raised
And a bottle in his pocket.
Everything has an earthly look and is living on as always.
Boulevard Lannes what are you doing in mid-air
With your stone buildings around which the years have come
    to sniff?
You’re so far away from the Paris sun and from her moon
That street lamps don’t know anymore whether they should
light up or flicker out
And the milkmaid wonders if these can, in fact, be houses,
Stretching out real balconies,
And if the jingling at her fingers is of milk bottles or the stars.
At the curb a street-sweeper is piling up dead leaves from a
    plane tree,
Shaping them into a common grave for all the plane trees
Scattered everywhere through the sky.
His movements make a sound aerated by the vast spaces,
A sound his soul would imitate.
Is that dog, working his way miraculously
Across the road, a living dog?
His fur smells of lightning and clouds,
But through the drifting atmosphere
His eyes still look innocent
And I doubt if the boulevard
Is wider at all than the space between Betelgeuse and the
    Swan.
Agh! If I press my ear hard against the immobile road
I can hear the horrible gallop of the stars, the rumbling of
    their vertigo.
Through a crack in the pavement
I see how it is that a star
By its own violence clings
To the empty elusive air
Flying away in all directions.

Hidden by a shard of night as if behind a column,
I choke back my memory so it can’t make a single sound
And keep watch with my human eyes,
My eyes come all the way up here,
Masked—but by what kind of face?
Everywhere I look I plainly see that it’s still this year,
And yet it could be said that it’s the world’s first day:
All things surrounded by startling silence,
Each staring at another, long and hard.

These heavy steps on the sidewalk
I recognize them as my own.
I hear them walk off into the distance.
They part company with me
(Am I nothing to them now?)
Go away all by themselves
And disappear deep inside the Bois.
If I cry out no one will hear
Anything but the Earth groaning,
Scraping lightly against its sphere
At a million points of contact,
Making sure of its mountains,
Of its rivers, its forests,
Stirring up its hidden fire
Where the future is kept warm
(It’s waiting for its turn to come).

I’m left by myself with my bones.
From their murky pallor I hear:
” Where’s he headed, all crippled by his thoughts, between
    two skies
And so far away from firm ground?
Look at him searching for shade and finding only sunlight.”

And now that I can recognize the outside of my house at this
    altitude,
I’m going to hang the portraits of my mother and father
In between two trembling stars,
I’ll set the antique clock from their parlor
On a mantlepiece built into the bitter night
And the scholar who one day will come on these things in the
    sky
Will whisper about them until his death.
But a long time will have to pass before my hands can come
    and go
As if they were without air, without light and friends,
In the aching sky
That will groan faintly
Cut by sharp corners of objects that will have risen from the
     Earth.

Alarm
 

The astronomer’s gaze
Deep in the night below
The foliage of the spheres
Moves one star in its nest,
A star whose unprotected
Head can be seen to stir
At the end of this long
But fleeting mortal glance
And which begins to sing
The song of black spaces
That devour all the lights
In the solemn empty sky.

Silver threads, platinum threads
Tie boundless space so tight
That the retina’s ray
Provokes a feeble noise.
Everything that’s died on earth
Prowls space sniffing at life,
Examining the dark
Where forgetfulness grows,
While the sightless stars
Move through space on orbits
That are fixed like hope
And fixed like despair.

The fish, the violets,
The skylarks and the wolves
Marshal their will ready
To come back down to us.
The leopards, the pumas
And the tigers moving
Through their internal brush
Pace as if in cages.
Other fabulous beasts,
Their souls crammed with danger,
Mix their flickering desires
With the world of the nebulae.

Under the starry swell
That hoists and hauls it down
The zenith soars and totters
Like the tip of a mast.
The universe hides the Earth
In its powerful heart
Where all the rumbling
Of planetary anguish stops.
But the Moon that comes near
To puzzle out our thoughts,
Unveiling rocks and sand,
Draws to itself our tides.

Projection
 

Cemetery in the air
—Celestial dust—
Where friends will recognize each other
With less miserly eyes,
Cemetery in the air haunted by criss-cross streets,
By powerful avenues
And by embarcation piers for souls of all sizes,
When the wind blows down from the sky
I can hear the heavy steps
Of life and death who exchange their prisoners
At your shifting crossroads.

Should I call you phantoms,
Amalgams of darkness,
Each one searching for a body
And for the slightest pleasure?
All you whose strongest desires
Cloud the mirror of the sky
But are too weak to be reflected,
Are you waiting for the birth
Of a swan-billed moon
Or a star held in suspense
Behind a celestial sign?
Are you waiting for the dawn
And its less embarrassing light
Or for a little bit of rain
To slip into our strict homes,
Without anyone seeing them,
Your thin itinerant souls
That frighten away the living?
The living—bound to their hearts,
Cemented to their bones and flying the colors of delight,
All these people who speak so loudly from their rosy lips
And are proud of their vigilant and treacherous thoughts
And of their eyes sweeping the horizon without fatigue.

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