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The Veil of Ether

by Guy Goffette

Translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker

It makes no difference that we know the sky is only
an illusion, like happiness when everything is going:
the little boats as time passes, the horizon
like a flexed bow or like

the hip of a woman in the arms of sleep,
everything, everything turns bitter at the least occasion:
the sight of a narrow room, of a row
of poplars under the window

—the same poplars, the same window,
form and content of an unbearable absence—
no difference, yes, that it’s only a veil of ether
on our wounded eyes, it’s still for the sky

that we bargain away space and all the colors.


Guy Goffette is the author of six books of poems, the most recent of which, Un manteau de fortune (Gallimard 2001), received the Grand Prix de Poésie de l’Académie Française for that year. He is also the author of Elle, par bonheur et toujours nue, an imaginative essay/memoir about Bonnard, and Verlaine d’ardoise et de pluie, a similarly idiosyncratic book on Verlaine. He received the Grand Prix de Poésie de la Société des Gens de Lettres in 1999 for the totality of his work. Other poems of his, in Marilyn Hacker’s translation, have appeared in The Paris Review, The New England Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, New Letters, Barrow Street, PN Review, and Poetry London (England).

Marilyn Hacker is the author of ten books, including Desesperanto (Norton 2003), Winter Numbers, which received a Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Award of The Nation and the Academy of American Poets in 1995, and Selected Poems, which was awarded the Poets’ Prize in 1996. She Says, a translated collection of Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s poems, in a bilingual edition, was published by Graywolf Press in 2003. She lives in New York and Paris, and teaches at the City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center. (1/2005)

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