translated by wallace fowlie
When the child’s forehead, full of red torments,
Implores the white swarm of indistinct dreams,
There come near his bed two tall charming sisters
With slim fingers that have silvery nails.
They seat the child in front of a wide open
Window where the blue air bathes a mass of flowers
And in his heavy hair where the dew falls
Move their delicate, fearful and enticing fingers.
He listens to the singing of their apprehensive breath.
Which smells of long rosy plant honey
And which at times a hiss interrupts, saliva
Caught on the lip or desire for kisses.
He hears their black eyelashes beating in the perfumed
Silence; and their gentle electric fingers
Make in his half-drunken indolence the death of the little lice
Crackle under their royal nails.
Then the wine of Sloth rises in him,
The sigh of an harmonica which could bring on delirium;
The child feels, according to the slowness of the caresses
Surging in him and dying continuously a desire to cry.
translated from the french by john ashbery
One fine morning, in the country of a very gentle people, a magnificent man and woman were shouting in the public square. “My friends, I want her to be queen!” “I want to be queen!” She was laughing and trembling. He spoke to their friends of revelation, of trials completed. They swooned against each other.
In fact they were regents for a whole morning as crimson hangings were raised against the houses, and for the whole afternoon, as they moved toward groves of palm trees.
translated by wallace fowlie
We aren’t serious when we’re seventeen.
—One fine evening, to hell with beer and lemonade,
Noisy cafés with their shining lamps!
We walk under the green linden trees of the park
The lindens smell good in the good June evenings!
At times the air is so scented that we close our eyes.
The wind laden with sounds—the town isn’t far—
Has the smell of grapevines and beer . . .
—There you can see a very small patch
Of dark blue, framed by a little branch,
Pinned up by a naughty star, that melts
In gentle quivers, small and very white . . .
Night in June! Seventeen years old! —We are overcome by it all
The sap is champagne and goes to our head . . .
We talked a lot and feel a kiss on our lips
Trembling there like a small insect . . .
Our wild heart moves through novels like Robinson Crusoe,
—When, in the light of a pale street lamp,
A girl goes by attractive and charming
Under the shadow of her father’s terrible collar . . .
And as she finds you incredibly naïve,
While clicking her little boots,
She turns abruptly and in a lively way . . .
—Then cavatinas die on your lips . . .
You are in love. Occupied until the month of August.
You are in love. —Your sonnets make Her laugh.
All your friends go off, you are ridiculous.
—Then one evening the girl you worship deigned to write to you . . . !
—That evening, . . . —you return to the bright cafés,
You ask for beer or lemonade . . .
—We’re not serious when we are seventeen
And when we have green linden trees in the park.