Tears Are Alike

In honor of V-E Day, we present this work by a poet of the French Resistance.

Louis Aragon
French
1897 – 1982

 

In the grey sky were porcelain angels
In the grey sky were stifled cries
I remember those days at Mainz
The Black Rhine and the weeping Loreleis

You would find sometimes at the end of an alley
A Frenchman dead with a knife-blade in the back
You would find sometimes that the peace was cruel
For all the young white wine of the terraces

I drank their transparent Kirschwasser
I drank the vows they whispered with clasped hand
How lovely were the palaces and churches
I was twenty then, I did not understand

What did I know about days of defeat
When you r country is a love forbidden
When you need the voice of false prophets
To bring lost hope to life again ?

I remember songs that touched the heart
I remember signs chalked in red
Found in the morning scribbled on walls
We never once deciphered what they said

Who can say where memory begins
Who can say where the present ends
Where the past becomes a sentimental ballad
And sorrow a paper yellowed with age?

Like a child surprised among his dreams
The blank looks of the vanquished made you
Then, at the tramp of guard relieving guard
The Rhenish silence shuddered to its heart.

Anywhere Out of the World

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.

Charles Baudelaire
French
1821 – 1867

 

This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to
suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window.
It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and this question of removal is one
which I discuss incessantly with my soul.
‘Tell me, my soul, poor chilled soul, what do you think of going to live in Lisbon? It must be warm there, and there
you would invigorate yourself like a lizard. This city is on the sea-shore; they say that it is built of marble
and that the people there have such a hatred of vegetation that they uproot all the trees. There you have a landscape
that corresponds to your taste! a landscape made of light and mineral, and liquid to reflect them!’
My soul does not reply.
‘Since you are so fond of stillness, coupled with the show of movement, would you like to settle in Holland,
that beatifying country? Perhaps you would find some diversion in that land whose image you have so often admired
in the art galleries. What do you think of Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships moored at the foot of
houses?’
My soul remains silent.
‘Perhaps Batavia attracts you more? There we should find, amongst other things, the spirit of Europe
married to tropical beauty.’
Not a word. Could my soul be dead?
‘Is it then that you have reached such a degree of lethargy that you acquiesce in your sickness? If so, let us
flee to lands that are analogues of death. I see how it is, poor soul! We shall pack our trunks for Tornio. Let us go
farther still to the extreme end of the Baltic; or farther still from life, if that is possible; let us settle at the Pole. There
the sun only grazes the earth obliquely, and the slow alternation of light and darkness suppresses variety and
increases monotony, that half-nothingness. There we shall be able to take long baths of darkness, while for our
amusement the aurora borealis shall send us its rose-coloured rays that are like the reflection of Hell’s own
fireworks!’
At last my soul explodes, and wisely cries out to me: ‘No matter where! No matter where! As long as it’s out
of the world!’

The Last Butterfly

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Rosemonde Gérard
French
1871 – 1953

 

When the cricket no longer sings
And one is faced with the autumn,
One is surprised, on some grey morning,
To see the last butterfly wings.

More gold, azure, or scarlet,
Its colour evenly spread;
The ash found around it
Lost in the earth’s sandy bed.

Whence, and through which door, does it come?
Is this, in the dead leaf of autumn,
The only butterfly living,

Or, dead, midst living snow,
The slight, transparent shadow
Of a butterfly from spring, long ago?

The Awakening

We present this work in honor of the 145th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Louise Colet
French
1810 – 1876

 

Winter is over
The earth regains its youth
My love, do you not feel the warm breeze
that caresses us?

Do you not smile
as the sun warms our souls
and quickens our spirit?

Do you not welcome the mist that
disperses the tearful and bitter days
of yore?

No more sad dreams!
Oh let us live in empyrean serenity
whose happy hours will chase away
those long and somber days.

The air is perfumed,
The billowing clouds form intoxicating shapes
Do you not respond to their allure?

Do you not hear whispers that
penetrate your soul and your senses?
The treetops shiver in the woods
the waves and the breezes, all sigh softly.

All of these voices murmur in one voice
to our hearts, saying “love one another.”
My love, let us celebrate nature!
Her awakening will revive us!

Home

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 145th birthday.

Leon-Paul Fargue
French
1876 – 1947

 

A name, Cromac, makes us speak
Of a dark bay… O death of love,
Be less sad for weeping
Other names, other days

Where you were like the blind man
Looking at the dark red
And playing with his scratched hands
Over the old bench of his childhood…

Like the blind man, when he dreams
And grumbles, and when his heart
Scolds the warm bodied beauty
Watching him, in tears…

Cromac. The House under the branches
Whose window with flower eyes
Separated her long white hands
Gently, noiselessly, over your heart…

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.