Poetry at Sangam



AUTUMN SHIVERS by Yves Bonnefoy

(Translated from the French by Beverley Bie Brahic)

Where are we going to put this mirror?

Nowhere! Let it sit on this table, reflecting only the sky, and for no one.

The sky? Not only the sky, also a corner of the archway, with its wide moulding from another century. Outside, through a window we made in the wall, the garden, what would have been the garden. And at night, if we bend over the mirror, we’ll see a vague gleam of stars above the trees.

And where’s this chromolithograph going to go? We bought it, not without some perplexity, you recall, at the annual rummage sale in the next village. Hard to see what it is under the tarnished glass!

Hard! Don’t you see? It’s a lake in front of mountains, a small boat. And aboard it, two young women in pink dresses, with big hats, veils and bouquets of flowers in their hands. The water is clear but night is falling. And another boat bobbing a little further on, with musicians, a singer. What a voice! These veils, I remember them, people wore them when I was a child, to look stylish! But mourning veils often, black gauze.

The hall door is banging, do you know why?

I don’t know.

And that walking up in the attic? It’s the same bird as every evening. Now is when it wakes up. I’m going up there. I can watch it fly off for the night through the open window.

Don’t go!

There’s nothing to be afraid of! Listen rather to how loudly the young man over there on the water is singing. Too bad, now there’s some mist. He’s rowing his boat towards the other boat, but all we see of him is a red spot dwindling into the mountain’s shadow.

I’ve heard they make fires on boats, up in those mountains. That the boats drift across the lake, late into the night.

Let’s go see, let’s gaze off into the distance since our house doesn’t exist.

Published with the kind permission of Seagull Books. ‘Autumn Shivers’: The Present Hour (Beverley Bie Brahic trans.) © Seagull Books, 2013; Original from L’heure présente by Yves Bonnefoy © Mercure de France, 2011; English Translation © Beverley Bie Brahic, 2011