Choose Life

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 125th birthday.

Andre Breton
French
1896 – 1966

 

Choose life instead of those prisms with no depth even if their colors are purer
Instead of this hour always hidden instead of these terrible vehicles of cold flame
Instead of these overripe stones
Choose this heart with its safety catch
Instead of that murmuring pool
And that white fabric singing in the air and the earth at the same time
Instead of that marriage blessing joining my forehead to total vanity’s
Choose life

Choose life with its conspiratorial sheets
Its scars from escapes
Choose life choose that rose window on my tomb
The life of being here nothing but being here
Where one voice says Are you there where another answers Are you there
I’m hardly here at all alas
And even when we might be making fun of what we kill
Choose life

Choose life choose life venerable Childhood
The ribbon coming out of a fakir
Resembles the playground slide of the world
Though the sun is only a shipwreck
Insofar as a woman’s body resembles it
You dream contemplating the whole length of its trajectory
Or only while closing your eyes on the adorable storm named your hand
Choose life

Choose life with its waiting rooms
When you know you’ll never be shown in
Choose life instead of those health spas
Where you’re served by drudges
Choose life unfavorable and long
When the books close again here on less gentle shelves
And when over there the weather would be better than better it would be free yes
Choose life

Choose life as the pit of scorn
With that head beautiful enough
Like the antidote to that perfection it summons and it fears
Life the makeup on God’s face
Life like a virgin passport
A little town like Pont-á-Mousson
And since everything’s already been said
Choose life instead

Reading the Night

We present this work in honor of Thiruvalluvar Day.

Ashitha
Indian
1956 – 2019

 

So clandestinely does
the night sketch the night,
like the fingers of darkness
entwining those of the shadows
caressing so intimately that
one becomes the other.
some stealthy lines
drawn on the inner paths
forking in separation
touching or un-touching.
some specks of light
perceived or un-perceived.
some dark forebodings
of a fall or of death.
mining the secrets of the dark
should be a meditative act
like all robes unravelled
from the body which then
weaves itself on its nude self.
night should be made love to
so intensely as a couple
raining by themselves
kissing again and again
the drops of sweat
dripping from the bodies
seized by ecstasy.
night is a poem
written by a woman
with her head bowed
while black serpents

slither along her tresses
to be read only by those homes
that have turned insomniac.

In Muted Tone

We present this work in honor of the 125th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Paul Verlaine
French
1844 – 1896

 

Gently, let us steep our love
In the silence deep, as thus,
Branches arching high above
Twine their shadows over us.

Let us blend our souls as one,
Hearts’ and senses’ ecstasies,
Evergreen, in unison
With the pines’ vague lethargies.

Dim your eyes and, heart at rest,
Freed from all futile endeavor,
Arms crossed on your slumbering breast,
Banish vain desire forever.

Let us yield then, you and I,
To the waftings, calm and sweet,
As their breeze-blown lullaby
Sways the gold grass at your feet.

And, when night begins to fall
From the black oaks, darkening,
In the nightingale’s soft call
Our despair will, solemn, sing.

The Rose

We present this work in honor of the 435th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Pierre Ronsard
French
1524 – 1585

 

See, Mignonne, hath not the Rose,
That this morning did unclose
Her purple mantle to the light,
Lost, before the day be dead,
The glory of her raiment red,
Her colour, bright as yours is bright?

Ah, Mignonne, in how few hours,
The petals of her purple flowers
All have faded, fallen, died;
Sad Nature, mother ruinous,
That seest thy fair child perish thus
‘Twixt matin song and even tide.

Hear me, my darling, speaking sooth,
Gather the fleet flower of your youth,
Take ye your pleasure at the best;
Be merry ere your beauty flit,
For length of days will tarnish it
Like roses that were loveliest.

from Perceval, the Story of the Grail

Chrétien de Troyes
French
1130 – 1191

 

They sat in a hall lit
As brightly as candles can make
An indoor room. And as
They chatted of this and that,
A servant entered the hall,
Carrying — his hand at its center —
A white lance. He came out
Of a room, then walked between
The fire and those seated
On the bed, and everyone saw
The white wood, and the white
Spearhead, and the drop of blood
That rolled slowly down
From the iron point until
It reached the servant’s hand.
The boy saw that wondrous
Sight, the night he arrived there,
But kept himself from asking
What it might mean, for he’d never
Forgotten — as his master at arms
Had warned him, over and over —
He was not to talk too much.
To question his host or his servants
Might well be vulgar or rude,
And so he held his tongue.

And then two other servants
Entered, carrying golden
Candleholders worked
With enamel. They were wonderfully handsome
Boys, and the candleholders
They each clasped in their hands
Bore at least ten
Burning candles. A girl
Entered with them, holding
A grail-dish in both her hands —
A beautiful girl, elegant,
Extremely well dressed. And as
She walked into the hall,
Holding this grail, it glowed
With so great a light that the candles
Suddenly seemed to grow dim,
Like the moon and stars when the sun
Appears in the sky. Then another
Girl followed the first one,
Bearing a silver platter.
The grail that led the procession
Was made of the purest gold,
Studded with jewels of every
Kind, the richest and most costly
Found on land or sea.
No one could doubt that here
Were the loveliest jewels on earth.
Just as they’d done before,
When carrying the lance, the servants
Passed in front of the knight,
Then went to another room.
And the boy watched them, not daring
To ask why or to whom
This grail was meant to be served,
For his heart was always aware
Of his wise old master’s warnings.
But I fear his silence may hurt him,
For I’ve often heard it said
That talking too little can do
As much damage as talking too much.

Lady Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 125th birthday.

Paul Eluard
French
1895 – 1952

 

She is standing on my eyelids
And her hair is in my hair
She has the color of my eye
She has the body of my hand
In my shade she is engulfed
As a stone against the sky

She will never close her eyes
And she does not let me sleep
And her dreams in the bright day
Make the suns evaporate
And me laugh cry and laugh
Speak when I have nothing to say

Nyx

Catherine Pozzi
French
1882 – 1934

 

O you, my nights, O long-awaited blackness,
O proud country, O obstinate secrets,
O long looks, O thundering clouds
O flight beyond skies which are closed

O great desire, O scattered surprise
O beautiful journey of th’ enchanted sprite
O worst evil, O grace that flies
O open door where we enter night

I don’t know why I die today
Before th’ eternal rest above.
I don’t know for whom I’m prey
I don’t know for whom I’m love.

Hair

We present this work in honor of the 105th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Remy de Gourmont
French
1858 – 1915

 

There is great mystery, Simone,
In the forest of your hair.

It smells of hay, and of the stone
Cattle have been lying on;
Of timber, and of new-baked bread
Brought to be one’s breakfast fare;
And of the flowers that have grown
Along a wall abandonèd;
Of leather and of winnowed grain;
Of briers and ivy washed by rain;
You smell of rushes and of ferns
Reaped when day to evening turns;
You smell of withering grasses red
Whose seed is under hedges shed;
You smell of nettles and of broom;
Of milk, and fields in clover-bloom;
You smell of nuts, and fruits that one
Gathers in the ripe season;
And of the willow and the lime
Covered in their flowering time;
You smell of honey, of desire,
You smell of air the noon makes shiver:
You smell of earth and of the river;
You smell of love, you smell of fire.

There is great mystery, Simone,
In the forest of your hair.

Lament for Clairac

Theophile de Viau
French
1590 – 1626

 

Sweet place where I adored Phyllis of yore,
Sun-hallowed walls that held my soul in charms,
Today beneath our sundered roofs no more
Than bloody spoil for prideful men at arms,

Cloth of the altar gone in smoke and scorned,
Temple in ruins, mysteries undone,
Horrific relicts of a city burned:
Men, horses, palaces, buried as one.

Deep moats packed with debris from shattered walls,
Tableaux of horror, shrieks and burials,
River where blood has not stopped running high,

Slaughterfields where the wolves and crows gorge free,
Clairac! For the one birth you gave to me
How many, many deaths you make me die.

The Shadow of the Orange-Leaves

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 175th birthday.

Judith Gautier
French
1845 – 1917

 

The young girl who works
all day in her solitary chamber
is moved to tenderness if she
hears of a sudden the sound of
a jade flute.
And she imagines that she
hears the voice of a young boy.

Through the paper of the
windows the shadow of the
orange-leaves enters and sits
on her knees;

And she imagines that some-
body has torn her silken dress.