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16 February 2014

Jean Tardieu - 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


A LITTLE water compensates
a surfeit of world:
empty between stones
it delivers us
by pretending absence.

Air's window
rubbed-out surface
possessing nothing
see how deep it is
for a thought.

If a storm comes
the glass is ruffled
the mind goes
opaque again.

I can't breathe
I move on I ask
knocking on solid earth
I listen and wait

for the wind to blow
such a gale
it'll open a space
between things.

Advice from a witch
in a terrified whisper in the reader's ear

KEEP FROM laughing
at first light!

Don't listen to the trees
that watch over pathways!

Don't tell your name
to the sleeping earth
till after the last stroke of midnight!

Don't hold out your hand
to snow and rain!

Don't open your window
except to small planets
whom you know well!

Trust for trust:
you who come to consult me,
beware, beware!
You never know what may happen.

I'VE SEEN prison cells
I've bumped into them
they were pure spirit.

I've seen celery
I've eaten it
it was plain matter.

No further forward!
Nothing but cells
nothing but celery!

Oh if I could only
leave the celery
inside the cell
the key under the door
and go off somewhere else
and talk about something else.


with a boat on it.

Milord sat on his bed
put on his suit and said:

'Put it down somewhere
while I finish my cigar.'

Jeeves came back an hour later:
the window was open
nothing in the bed
nothing either under the Aspidistra
and nothing at all on the tray.

- Milord's sailed off in his boat.

Case for the Prosecution

THIS FELLOW was alone.
He was walking like a madman
talking to the pavement
smiling at the windows
weeping inside himself
answering no questions
bumping into people, seeming not to see them.

We arrested him.

Even if...

EVEN IF I saw with my own eyes
our painted ancestors
come down from their picture-frames and walk about
in the solid world

Even if I saw with my own eyes
the roads of the earth rise into the sky
slanting as gracefully as water-jets

Even if I heard the sun
(what, the sun? yes yes the sun)
whisper my name to me

Even if I suddenly grew to the size
and silence and weight of a house

Even I found the key
to the great tunnel that runs through the earth
and began slowly sliding down its walls.

Even if I saw with my own eyes
the teeming Other Side of things

even if even if even if...

- I should still believe in sacred Reality
that drops from our hands and sinks into the night.