I’m thinking of a little poem about the one who wondered
           what pills I was taking
at night. Pills against absence. He’s sitting
           so close oh I’d love
to write one more sadness on the inaccessible shelter
           of his shoulders. Of course
a friend has generously emailed to let me know
           he thinks my poems are mostly
narcissistic tactics of seduction. Isn’t it worth writing, then,
           the stormy morning
in Vienna, the acacias aimed directly over us, or
           the club
with the Bulgarian prostitutes, the night before, when
           we danced
pressed up against humanity’s minor bodies? Not worth writing and nothing
to do with the future of living? Possibly—but then
           listen my interior troubadours
I hear them crying oyez oyez pleasure each time
           I sing
my least particular lady. Him, for example. He makes the world
vibrate faster, he gives us a
           deeper winter: look
the trees in the courtyard, naked and straight in their bark and
           duration. It’s like
entering a season awakened by need: it isn’t certain
           that the sidewalks
help you balance but if you manage right
           his face
can help you walk the streets. Who is it who once said, “existence
           is nothing but the declension
of bodies?” No one, maybe. And yet it’s true: everything
           tries
to pull a piece off of the embrace. Let’s say a dove
           pulls a worm out of the earth
and you raise someone’s arm and smell his armpit then
           the rest comes too,
when through deductions or inductions even tomorrow
           turns green again and we become
approximable. He, for example, who’s now just
           a faraway face,
I’m learning to breathe in absence and with deferred lungs.
           And then this morning
a researcher on the radio explained that we already know how to make
           3D bio-photocopies
           of bits of skin and cornea—so let me
just copy your body and I promise then to leave the original
           alone. In any case
my friends I’m writing less and less poetry. I’m only adding
           words to days
hoping to get past the intense odor
           of solitude
stagnating ceaselessly beneath my arms—and then more salvos
from the interior troubadours: keep on, keep on weaving verses
           to the only truth
there is, to the stupor of existing. And so the gulls climb again
           over the land, following
the rivers from landfill to landfill, because
           they’re good examples
of adjectives: avid, famished, starving, and the whole
           linguistic list
that means simply, I miss you. What you?
           I told you yesterday, the smallest
member of the universal face. Indeed with you or all of you
           we could be caught up in
the world’s talons, if that metaphor makes any sense. It’s what happens to
Ganymede, in the myth, an eagle grabs him and he drops him
           off in the counter-
universe of things or the universe of counter-things, anyway,
           I hope we
understand each other: it’s just that he learns to close
           the circumference around himself
like certain people roll up in their bedspreads
           or in the adolescent smell
of hope and it seems for a second like nothing can escape
           from now on: not
yesterday’s living postcard—full moon on the roaring sea
           & the squall whipping
at the windows—not this train not anything. In five, six days
           I’ll recognize him: one
of the millions able to stitch or join
           the skin like sometimes
the moss climbs all the way to the corrugated metal roofs and
           we wonder
where it finds the energy to explode so wildly
           in a hostile environment. For example
it’s death or death is growing but I’m
           carting around this photocopy
of you or all of you and it’s the mask or maybe the wetsuit
           I needed
not to end up already, let’s say, suffocated by polluted dust.

 

 

 


Stéphane Bouquet is the author of several collections of poems and a book of essays on poems, La Cité de paroles (2018). His collections in English include The Next Loves (Nightboat Books, 2019) and Common Life (Nightboat Books, forthcoming), both translated by Lindsay Turner. Bouquet is a recipient of a 2003 Prix de Rome and a 2007 Mission Stendhal Award, and lives in Paris.

Lindsay Turner is the author of Songs & Ballads (Prelude, 2018) and the translator of several books of contemporary francophone poetry and philosophy. She is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Literary Arts at the University of Denver.