To open the kernel of absence

2:42 PM Posted by James Owens

Le mot ronce, dis-tu?

Le mot ronce, dis-tu? Je me souviens
De ces barques échouées dans le varech
Que traînent les enfants les matins d'été
Avec des cris de joie dans les flaques noires

Car il en est, vois-tu, où demeure la trace
D'un feu qui y brûla à l'avant du monde
--Et sur le bois noirci, où le temps dépose
Le sel qui semble un signe mais s'efface
Tu aimeras toi aussi l'eau qui brille.

Du feu qui va en mer la flamme est brève,
Mais quand elle s'éteint contre la vague,
Il y a des irisations dans la fumée.
Le mot ronce est semblable à ce bois qui sombre.

Et poésie, si ce mot est dicible,
N'est-ce pas savoir là où l'étoile
Parut conduire mais pour rien sinon la mort,

Aimer cette lumière encore? Aimer ouvrir
L'amande de l'absence dans la parole?


The Word Brambles, You Say

The word brambles, you say? Then I think of
Those boats stranded in seaweed
That children drag on summer mornings
With cries of joy through dark pools of water,

Because in some, you see, there are traces
Of a fire that burned there at the prow of the world.
--And on the blackened wood where time has left
The salt that seems a sign but vanishes,
You too shall love the shimmering water.

Brief is the flame that goes out to sea,
But when it is quenched against the wave,
The smoke is filled with iridescence.
--The word brambles is like this sinking wood.

And poetry, if we can use this word,
Is it not still, there where the star
Seemed to beckon, but only toward death,

Knowing how to love this light? To love
To open the kernel of absence in words?

Yves Bonnefoy
Trans. John Naughton



Sorlil said...

I really like this, looked up more about Bonnefoy and I'm liking what I'm reading, thanks for this.

Roxana said...

Aimer ouvrir
L'amande de l'absence dans la parole?

how beautiful this is, James. I don't like the sound of it in English, in that magnificent repetition of 'a' one can hear the absence reverberating...

James Owens said...

Sorlil: Thank you. Bonnefoy is good as a poet, and almost as good as a critic. Avoid, if you can, the dreadful mess Galway kinnel made of Douve.

James Owens said...

Roxana: Yes, the sound of the last line is really its meaning, isn't it? And isn't the "o" of "ronce" so near an embodiment of l'amande de l'absence, and impossible to carry into English? There must be something going on, too, with the difference between "mot" (the poem's first word) and "parole" (its last). But that is lost....