Imperfect is the summit
Yves Bonnefoy
1.     Presence
(Stockholm, October 3–21, 1997)
From where did you come
from where did I come
from where did we come, my love,
in this garden of yellow maple leaves
in this evening that sticks to our feet
in this rain bursting forth
from a bygone age
in this chill that preceded the stars?
From the roots of tangled lanes
or the dumb night before creation
from the sea still dreaming of shells
or the word-like throb of life
first heard from a glacier?
Was it lightning that carried you here or
the white stone’s longing for heaven?
You caress my tired limbs like a wave;
salt sticks to my cheeks.
Are you a woman or an inland sea?
You turn into water between my fingers.
A dance beyond life and death
leads us out of Time.
We leave earth for another moonlight.
Our language is no more human;
it is of the birds bathed in sunlight,
of the collyrium and the spring shower,
of elves, perhaps.          
                                (August Strindberg Park )
After long years I again breathe
the prison’s sighs to make sure
the world is still the same.
I know them: Liza, Farida, Bouvasse.
I see your face on everyone.
My poems will not brighten their nights;
still I stammer about birth,
madness, prisons, revolutions.
Liza grips my hands tight:
‘It’s cruel, my brother, this prison.
I can’t escape, so I too write,
for no one in particular.’
I too, sister. Writing is
a scream against walls.
It just bounces back;
yet we await the sun.
We are in the same half-dark solitude.
Solitude is the same everywhere,
the pale face of the winter-sun
behind the fog’s curtain,
of the stonewall that doesn’t permit
flowers and birthdays.
Solitude is a dumb hag,
wrinkled orphan.
Come, my sister,
I shall teach you to dance on embers
Like my father used to.
I too am on fire, dancing with
the skull in my hand, love-lorn.
                       (Poetry reading at the Central Jail, Paris )
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