Skip to content

Three poems from Together Still.

By YVES BONNEFOY.

Translated by Hoyt Rogers.

 

.

THE MILKY WAY

Are we sleeping, my friend?

Yes. That sheet we pulled back: it’s the stars.

I stretch out my arm. Is that your hand?

Do I know?

Your foot touches my foot. It’s Cassiopeia; no, it’s Alpha Centauri; no, it’s the Virgo constellation. Oh, hold me.

You’re my little sister.

I was. All those worlds that drift by above us!

It’s the lower sky.

And those boats, higher still! As many as planets, stars. Take my hand, let’s go up together.

O armful of beams that you are! And its mirror.

When I was a little girl, at night I would look at the sky. You were crouched there like an animal, ready to pounce. I said to myself, is that Cassiopeia? Everything was gliding by, in silence. Father and mother had left—to go where? I was alone.

I would call you.

And we would take that little path: it was the sky. I would go barefoot. The pebbles hurt me.

Look at those beings from who knows where, standing up there in their boats. They have poles. They sink them into what seems like light. The poles graze us—we who are drifting; tenderly, they brush your shoulder.

Beings, no.

I hold you naked in my arms. It’s the middle of life.

 

VOICES IN THE TREETOPS

Those voices, listen!

Yes—up there.

In the trees? Even higher ?

Who can tell ? There are shouts.

No, laughter.

Laughter and shouts, all at once.

They climb; and now, God knows why—or maybe not—Eve has perched so far up that when she turns round, she feels dizzy. Adam, who’s followed her from branch to branch, holds out his hand. Eyes closed, she ventures her long leg: the first hand the world has known grips those somewhat dusty toes. She comes back down, cautiously—or maybe not.

I’ve seen, she says.

Seen what?

Elsewhere. I’ve seen elsewhere. Very small. Clouds that don’t move. Houses.

And she offers Adam some elsewhere: that fruit of the tree. Let’s go higher!

Ah, so many branches and leaves, so many fruits… They push branches aside so they can reach even more of them, higher and higher. They gaze into the distance, together this time. This is the ‘real life’ variant.

They won’t come back down. Children are playing up there—squabbling, with shouts and laughter such as we don’t know on earth.

They hardly pay attention to some stones—falling on them from where, they can’t tell: from somewhere still higher in the world. Stones of different colours and sizes, rebounding against the branches, breaking them sometimes. Sometimes killing.

This is the ‘treetops variant’.

 

THE ROOM, THE GARDEN

I.

This room, closed
Since before time began. Furniture, sleep
Speak to each other softly. Light
Holds out its hand through the panes. The vase
Waking on the table is a pallid blue.

Painter, you alone, you who remember,
Can enter this room today.
You know who smoothed, in the eternal,
The rumpled sheets, decking them
With fabrics whose pictures fade.

Enter,
Silence breathes to you—the silence that you are.
Enter with this vinous red, this yellow-ochre,
This blue of other years.
Make them take light by the hand,
And guide it… They show it the flowers,
Only a few, in the gold of dry leaves.
On its finger—as its memory—this ring.

You will stay here, until this evening. Painting
Does more than render life: it grants being—
Even if this hand, that in the shadow takes yours,
Can’t be touched… can hardly be seen.

II.

And having lived there,
Once you reemerge, let your work be this:
To look at the sky above the trees,
And then at the leaves, dark-green. Let the deep-blue
Of this bench whose colour flakes away
Come close to a touch of pink.

It’s about life and death…
And a woman who used to appear, graciously,
At this time of the evening, to read for an hour
In that delicate armchair—before the right not to fret
About the pace of time had ceased.

An hour, almost an hour. It’s as if
Something, perhaps a glove, had fallen
From her lap. And as if, not trying to see,
She’d sought it with one hand—distractedly,
In the coolness of the grass.

What’s faraway
Remains what’s closest. What’s most remote
In the past still haunts the present hour:
This we know from colour, where nothing ends.

III.

Light has nested, tonight,
In sleep; and this morning,
It was a world; and towards evening,
It’s even this dress, aglow with a touch of pink—
This gaze that asks a garden
To welcome it, a short while still.

Paints, an empty armchair, a book left open;
Under the first drops—large, warm—
The colour brightens. She picks up—is it
A glove?—something in the thick-grown grass.

The grass in your garden, my painter friend,
Has it grown so much? Does its immense
Greenness cover the world that you were?
Yes, but look: the grass is crushed, where an animal has slept.
Its hideaway is like a sign. The sign is more
Than what was lost, than life going by—
Than the song on the road, late at night.

Disclose with your brush this shadow in the grass;
Unveil for us the simple essence of the sign:
This dream—no, this gold—
That turns what was into what remains.

 

Note: Together Still, Yves Bonnefoy’s final poetry collection, will be published by Seagull Books in July 2017. —Ed.


YVES BONNEFOY:
A Memorial Tribute.

ESSAYS & TRANSLATIONS By Hoyt Rogers: Introductory Note | Sonnets of Music and Memory | Paths to Speech | Three Poems from Together Still.
By Anthony Rudolf:
Devotions | Two Visits to Paris.

Yves Bonnefoy. Before his death in July of 2016, Yves Bonnefoy had published eleven major collections of verse, several books of tales, and numerous studies of literature and art. He is recognized as the greatest French poet of the last fifty years, and his work has been translated into scores of languages. In addition, he himself was a celebrated translator of Shakespeare, Yeats, Keats, and Leopardi. He received the European Prize for Poetry (2006) and the Kafka Prize (2007), among many other honors.  His latest anthology in English, Second Simplicity: New Poetry and Prose, 1991-2011 was published by the Yale University Press in 2012. Yves Bonnefoy: Poems will be published by Carcanet Press in 2017, to be followed in 2018 by Yves Bonnefoy: Critical Essays.

Hoyt Rogers is the author of a book of verse, Witnesses, and a volume of criticism, The Poetics of Inconstancy. He translates from the French, German, Italian, and Spanish. He is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review and has published dozens of translations, including three books by Yves Bonnefoy: The Curved Planks, Second Simplicity, and The Digamma. With Paul Auster, he published Openwork, an André du Bouchet reader, at the Yale University Press in 2014. His translations of Bonnefoy’s Rome 1630 and Together Still, the author’s final poetry collection, are forthcoming from Seagull Books. He lives in the Dominican Republic and Italy.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *
*
*

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.