|this is my first attempt at translation of a creative work. i hope the author will forgive my misunderstandings and my clumsiness.
the poem is the first prize winner of the en route poetry prize for 2009. it was written in french. comments and corrections to my translation are welcome.
by judy quinn
december 6, 1998
you are already into the second chapter of it,
and not a word has been said.
you are just an extension:
the flower spike that opens and scatters its seeds.
your happiness is joyless,
your pain exposed.
you no longer belong to yourself.
just like at saint-raphael, san jose —
4:50, notes the nurse:
you make your way earthward
where even invisible things fragment apart,
one year pressed against the other,
your forehead pressed against the table:
to replace, says the book,
break apart, then replace.
towards those who, before you,
dressed up their web of illusions,
a picture of hands, lost,
bubbles trapped on the surface of a lake,
all these lives that once were yours.
they have plugged in their probes,
plunged into the restless waters.
you see nothing, but everything’s clear.
on the screen, a raised arm hails a taxi,
a lawnmower scrapes the sky,
let me out of here before the storm.
they have pumped the blood,
drawn back the doors, and remade the bed.
they played with your mother’s hair, and said:
it’s nothing, relax, this is normal,
everything’s perfectly normal.
5:03, notes the nurse, and leaves:
for millennia, our words depreciate each day,
the same lamp, carried from room to room
shines on each blinding day:
it’s been this way for millennia, she writes, and leaves.
your mother admires the houseplants,
the green unpleated drapes,
your father, sitting, his schoolbag at his feet.
an island that the merest word cracks.
5:53, december 6, 1998,
what separates the sky from the window,
your father’s bedside chair,
the centrifugal force that glues us, skin to skin,
time has left the room.
one day, you’ll see, says your mother,
no one will have to be buried anymore.
and the nurse notes:
everything is perfectly normal.
silent bell-towers toll our distress.
dressed in green feathers,
under the worried eyes
of the stars, we will cease
all procreation —
you will be born without me.
6:20, december 6, 1998
buried in billions of light-years of dust,
silent and sterile
a hand unblocks a plumbing pipe.
from black to red, nail polish
like the beginning of the cosmos.
6:20, local time
peeps, diving flights,
the yellow pink of a summer evening’s heat —
the rain, the clouds of bees,
complement each other.
you are coming. we will empty the world.
outside the room
a tree sways in the languid morning,
the final outcome of the growing dawn.
a brown apple pressed against a face.
when you get free from the vice,
the one you weren’t even aware of,
when you have not cried, in today’s book,
you were already real enough.
for a first note:
nine out of ten, white, you
failed the colour test.
when you came, carrying on your skin
that whiteness from the time before
we each looked out for ourselves,
and the tree, and the rose.
this counterweight so sensitive to words
that without them, it would have fallen over.
you are this spot, as soft as infinite clay.
your eyes are the seal of renewal.
you expect heaven — do not seek it.
smell the soiled linen, the vomit and blood,
these diapers down here, nothing higher.
you would have to have been born
in another time.
here, they’ve placed a limit on our dreams.
once you’ve frowned, looked at nothing,
your black almond eyes, with no blue hue,
unable to tell your mother from a blot of ink
you already knew
that to live, you must forget.
omit what’s essential, don’t be concerned about it.
it’s a long trek. on the uneven road
you’ll get lost a million times, and a million times
lay down your dusty burden
looking for the break in the wire that holds your life
back at the starting line.
they tossed you on top of your mother,
the frozen ghost,
under the neon lights of the room
furnished to please the administrators.
i love you, and i want so much to love you
says your mother,
so much that i want you to live forever.
without asking, they picked you up again.
you will set up so many ideals,
says your father
and they will rise up against you
he says, for his own benefit.
there will be enough of them,
they’ll beat you back
and stay alongside the living.
don’t pay any attention:
everything is perfectly normal.
just born, mechanically,
you brought your lips to your mother’s breast
and sewed her back up with a web of drool.
your mouth is partly played.
you were baptized even before you were born,
this twisted name swollen
with a russian hero’s pride.
it carries the scent of the plains.
in the moment when the earth steals it,
a field of wheat at the other end of the world
grows and moves with the sound of your name.
they wish you to be noble,
but you will be nothing but earth.
they will prevent you from leaving.
you’ll be left alone.
they will regain their former whiteness.
don’t think about it,
it will be done for you.
head turned towards childhood,
your hand feels out eternity, and with the other
you hold death by its collar,
its body on the cross.
don’t think about it.
they barely had to wash you,
they wiped out your nostrils, cleared your lungs,
they drew from your mouth your mother’s voice
which called out the world’s promises,
then they threw her away.
they dug for the words that you threw out to her
without finding them,
threw them out with the water.
only one remained.
only one was never delivered.
they tagged you,
measured the rest of the night on your wrists.
weighed your future
with nothing but a sketch of your heart.
then they put you in a bell jar:
perhaps they dreamed about
the sunken cheeks they gave you.
that they raised, meager offerings
from the bottom of a well.
these cheeks where laughter will take shape in you
will capsize boats which, within you
well before this december 6, nineteen hundred and…
at 6:20 am
dead planets drifted.
image: from salon.com