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25 February 2014

André Frénaud

Edinburgh Bilingual Library, 1972
"Anthology of contemporary French poetry"
Edited and translated
Graham Dunstan Martin, Lecturer in French, University of Edinburgh
General Editor
A.A. Parker, Professor of Spanish, University of Texas
Editorial Board
C.P. Brand
A.J. Steele

Epitaph

WHEN I present my slate to Nothingness
one day soon,
he won't snigger in my face.
My figures aren't fiddled,
they add up to absolute zero.
Come my son, he'll say with his cold teeth,
to the bosom you deserve.
I shall lie down in his gentleness.


House for Sale

SO MANY folk lived here who loved
love, waking up, and dusting.
The well is bottomless and moonless,
the old owners have left and taken nothing with them.
The ivy spreads under yesterday's sun,
leavings of soot, old coffee-grounds.
I harness myself to frayed dreams,
love the scourings of other people's souls,
mixed with those garnet fringes,
the ooze of ambitions gone awry.
Caretaker! I'll buy, I'll buy the place.
If it poisons me, I'll burn myself down.
Open the windows... Put up the name-plate.
Someone enters, sniffs the air, begins again.

The Magi

SHALL WE travel as fast as the star?
Hasn't the trip been long enough already?
Shall we succeed in losing at last
that glow between moon and beast,
taking its time?

The snow had embroidered the lands of returning
with its melted flowers where memory is lost.
New companions joined our band,
emerging from the trees like woodcutters.
The Wandering Jew toiled along, his injuries derided.
The black king was wrapped in furs and deadly sick.
The shepherd of hunger is among us,
his blue eyes illuminate his coat of pairings
and the furious flock of captive children.

We were going to see joy, so we thought,
the world's joy born in a house hereabouts.
That was at the beginning. Now we don't speak.
We were going to deliver a radiant tomb
marked with a cross by forest torches.

It's a perilous land this, the castles
stealthy behind our backs.
No fires in the inn hearths. The frontiers
shift at dawn under forbidden strokes.
Our palms that broke sandstorms
are weevil-riddled and I fear the night.

Those who waited for us in the wind of the road
have grown tired, chorus their protests.
Through suburbs shuttered at dawn, loveless country,
we pass together and not together
beneath hope's heavy eyelids.
Terror panting like an old nag.

We'll arrive too late, the massacre has begun,
the innocents are lying in the grass.
And we splash up puddles every day in every land.
And the murmur gets hollower, of the dead unrescued
who trusted our diligence.

The incense has gone rancid in its ivory boxes
and the gold has curdled our hearts like milk.
The girl has given herself to the soldiers,
whom we kept in the ark for her radiance,
the smile on her face.

We are lost. We've been given false directions.
From the very start of the journey.
There was no road, there is no light.
Only a golden cornspike out of a dream,
that the weight of our falling has not swollen.
And we go on, murmuring at ourselves,
on as bad terms as a man
can be with himself.
And the world dreams in our progress
through the grass of the bottom-lands.
And they hope when we have missed our way.

Straying in time's watered silk, the rough meanders
given life by the Child's smile,
knights in quest of the receding birth
of the future that prods us like an ox-herd,
I curse the whole venture, I want to return
to home and plane-tree
to drink the water of my well untroubled by the moon,
and fulfil myself on my terraces, always flat
in the still coolness of my own shadow.

But I cannot be free of this senseless call.

Self-portrait

PUDGY AND mournful,
an opaque pearl bulging his eye,
speech thickened by venison,
bushy as a cross-eyed star,
cracked as a calf running in the moonlight,
steady as a drum buried not far off,
beating stopping then starting again,
verdant as a mould that eats its wall
then smiles,
irreverent of happiness,
having no enviable place,
with straightforward prickly ways,
gauchely rolling his eyes and r's,
in his childhood's coal and all others,
slowly negating himself, there stands
a human light-projector.

Foods of the Earth

TWO EYES drained into the grass
don't hinder time
from moving at its own pace
with no ill will
and the heart of the hanged man
stopped dead
but will soon beat again
among flowers that are jubilation,
then are scattered.