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12 February 2014

Jean Follain - Poems

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

Red Ice

IN EIGHTEEN-TWELVE in Russia
when the soldiers were retreating
amid corpses
of horses and men
the lusty wine had frozen
the sapper's axe
had then to share
for all even the dying
the block of red ice
cask-shaped
that no museum
could ever have preserved.


The Centuries

LOOKING AT a hoofmark
left by his thoroughbred
the horseman in the curving print
where insects were already at their needlework
divined the future printing-press
then to ask his way
went up to a carpenter
resting by a rose
looking out across the valley
and who would never read a book.

Long ago

AT THE time of the Sun King's
endless retinues
it had frozen
one night on earth
the man after drinking
had wiped his blond moustache
and the woman gazed a little
at the crystals of frost
future centuries were waiting
a long army
encamped along the mountaintops.

Schoolboy's Dog

THE SCHOOLBOYS play at breaking ice
on a path
near the railway
they're thickly clad
in old dark woollens
and worn leather belts
the dog that follows them
no longer has a bowl for supper
he's old
for he's their age.

Always

THE SIGN hangs
over a door
where the dog comes scratching
the man's asleep.
He said as he brought home the hay
I prefer my house
to anything in the world
my red flowers to my daughters.
He doesn't know that crystals
grow.
But still the clock strikes
as in his distant youth.
If the house collapsed, near the ruins
a bullfinch would still sing.

The Pact

THE LAMPS blown out
the pincers laid on the bench
time passes.
Survival too of fields of stubble
threshing-floor of beaten earth.
Written in muddy ink
sealed with black wax
the pact concluded between powers
hangs heavy with menace.
The poor child plays with mud
the rich with sand.
Sadness spreads
in echoless rooms.

A Twilight

THE ARM-SCREW is out of use
spattered with hardened ink
the gas-chambers are turned off
the shadow of a tapering hand
will show up clear
on a bloody wall
foreheads will join again
birds will fall silent
and along the lane
children will carry for dinner
a bowlful
of broad beans congealed in their sauce.

Light Up Then

THE EYELETS of a corset
gleam
closed shutters
protect a world
whose illusion
will crumble.
The hour tastes of its time.
Light the lamps then
they say, after all
it's night.

The Barricade

ALONE HE can't stop seeing
despite the green trees
as if drawn in Chinese ink
the barricade;
the air whips soured faces
by a cageful of old birds
those who stubbornly smile
at love's demands
hear the hour strike.
At morning coffee
he felt
the threadbare lining
over his heart.