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by Jules Supervielle

translated from the French by Geoffrey Gardener

“This is a soul speaking,
Listen as hard as you can.
I used to be ashamed
Of my body that would come
Everywhere with me, wrapping
Me inside its clothed flesh.
I used to find it so gross
With its bones and its blood
That often I would curse it
Over land and over sea.
I dreamed of drowning it
In the depths of the river,
And now here I find myself
Kneeling without any knees
On the ground where it’s laid out,
Knowing nothing’s left to me
Of it but its memories
That, anxiously, come and go,
From the absence of my head
To the absence of my feet
Like a sorrowful tide
That would flow into the sea.
I am a bird in the air
Not knowing where to perch,
My only tree’s been felled
Even the ground is vanishing,
Agh! what kind of land is this
Where no one ever answers
Where no one knows how to listen
To a persuasive voice.”


Jules Supervielle was an important force in French poetry. He has not received his deserved recognition in this country due to spotty translations.

Geoffrey Gardener is busy rectifying this error. His poems and translations have appeared in Bleb, Cottonwood Review, New Letters, Skywriting, and APR. (Spring 1975)

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