Tuesday, October 27, 2009
“The Forest In The Axe”
It’s the last Tuesday in October, so we’re bringing André Breton month to a close on Translation Tuesday. Also, don’t forget to tune in this afternoon (if you’re on this particular continent) for the next poem by our good pal & Poetic Mystery Guest, B.N. Starting next month, Translation Tuesday will alternate with B.N.’s poems, so translations will appear on the 3rd & the 17th, & B.N.’s poems will appear on the 10th & 24th.
“The Forest in the Axe” (“La Forêt dans la hache”) comes from Breton’s 1932 collection, La Revolver à cheveux blancs (The White-haired Revolver), as did “The Verb To Be” & “Murderous Rescue.” Re-reading my translation for the first time in a good long while, this examination of physical & spiritual death kept bringing me back to the Eluard’s line that’s quoted in the film Alphaville: “mourir de ne pas mourir” (“dying of not dying). There’s more than a little of this in the present poem.
Thanks everybody for being so enthusiastic about the Breton translations, & hope you enjoy this one.
The Forest In The Axe
Someone just died but I’m still living although I no longer have a soul. I have nothing but a transparent body inside of which transparent doves throw themselves on a transparent dagger held by a transparent hand. I see effort in all its beauty, real effort that nothing can calculate, just before the last star makes its appearance. The body I live in like a hut and on lease detests the soul I had that’s floating in the distance. It’s time to be done with that famous duality for which I’ve taken so much blame. The time’s past when lightless and ringless eyes drew turbulence from the pools of color. There’s no more red or blue. The unanimous red-blue fades away in turn like a robin redbreast in the hedges of neglect. Someone just died— neither you nor me nor them exactly but all of us, save me who survives in many respects: I’m still cold, for instance. Enough of that. Bring fire! Fire! Or better yet some rocks so I can break them, or better yet some birds so I can follow them, or better yet some corsets so I can lace them tight around dead women’s waists, and this will resuscitate them and they’ll love me with their tiring hair, their dishevelled glances. Bring fire, so we don’t die for a glazed fig, bring fire so the Italian straw hat isn’t just a performance. Hello, lawn! Hello, rain! It’s me, the unreal breath of this garden. The black crown placed on my head is a cry of migratory crows because until now there were only those buried alive, not many for that matter, and now I’m the first of the aired-out dead. But I have a body not to be undone, to force the reptiles to admire me. Bloody hands, mistletoe eyes, mouth of dead leaves and glass (the dead leaves stir under the glass, they aren’t as red as one might think, when indifference lays bare its voracious methods), hands to pluck you, minuscule thyme of my dreams, rosemary of my extreme pallor. I don’t have a shadow anymore. Ah, my shadow, my dear shadow. I have to write a long letter to the shadow I’ve lost. I’ll start with My dear shadow. Shadow, my dearest. You see. There’s no more sun. There’s only one tropic out of two. There’s no more than one man out of a thousand. There’s only one woman out of the absence of thought that characterizes in pure black this damned epoch. That woman holds a bouquet of everlastings in the shape of my blood.
translation John Hayes © 1990-2009