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Like a Hand at the Moment of Death

by Robert Desnos


translated from the French by Stuart Dischell


      Like a hand at the moment of death and shipwreck
it rises like the last beams of the setting sun,
so from all places your glances spring.
      There is not enough time, there is not enough time
perhaps for me to see,
      But the leaf that falls and the wheel that turns you
will say nothing is perpetual above earth,
      Except love,
      And I want to be convinced.
      Some salvage boats paint reddish colors,
      Some storms vanish,
      And old waltz that sweeps away time and the wind
during slow intervals of sky.
      Me, I don’t want the others who clasp at what I aspire
      And kill the rooster’s song.
      Like a hand at the moment of death it shrinks, my
heart strains.
      I will never cry because I know you.
      I love my love too much to cry.
      You will cry over my grave.
      Or me over yours.
      It won’t be too late.
      I’ll lie. I’ll say you were my mistress,
      And then it really is so useless,
      You and me, soon we will die.

Robert Desnos was a French Surrealist poet. He is credited with eight volumes of poetry and the film L'Étoile de Mer, in collaboration with artist Man Ray. Much of his poetry has also been set to music.

Stuart Dischell is the author of Good Hope Road, a 1991 National Poetry Series Selection (Viking, 1993); Evenings & Avenues (Penguin, 1996); Dig Safe (Penguin, 2003); and Backwards Days (Penguin, 2007).

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