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from Vol. #8, Issue 3: Fall 2017
translated from French by Peter Brown

Louis Aragon: Two Poems from Elsa

The love of you resembles you

The love of you resembles you
It's hell and heaven blended
Fire as light as ash
Gone out as soon as it drifts away

The love of you a racing doe
Water sliding between my fingers
Thirst and spring both at once
Both at once spring and thirst

The love of you divides me
Like sand in an hourglass
It's a divine unity nonetheless
It makes a day of thirty years

The love of you is the fountain
The ring that shines at the bottom
And in the chestnut forest
A red squirrel going in circles

To die in pain and be reborn
To lose you scarcely having found you
To fear sleep is maybe to fear
Having done nothing only dreamt of you

Shattered to answer a gesture
An incidental indifferent word
A careless glance A hand
That drops the paper or lifts it again

Everything put to the test forever
Nothing serves not even passion
Always a new anxiety
Asking another question

That abyss is like a blue sky
Immensely immoderate
Can a man love who measures love
with the width of his arms his fields

I have no right to absence
I have no right to weakness
I am your throne and power
To love you is to stay

The love of you wants me to wait
On the bed like a clean sheet
It smells of freshness and lavender
With an embroidered monogram

What more am I than your monogram
One sign among others of your life
An empty glass intoxicated at the edge
Of your lip where its life is

As I was speaking in the language of verse

As I was speaking in the language of verse
She drifted sweetly tenderly off to sleep
Like a shaded house in the hollow of our life together
A lamp turned low among green myrtle

Her cheek recovered its springtime in repose
O weightless body set down in a dream of canvas
The sky formed by her eyes at starlight
Under the cover of skin the young blood lives in her

There she is who slides down the slopes of her fables
Obeying God-only-knows what distant signals
And then as always the dance the snow the sleigh ride
She has joined the night wrapped in her adorable arms again

I see her hand move Her mouth I tell myself
If only she'd remain a staircase of silence
Though it eludes me turning away through her childhood
My footsteps are forbidden in that secret land

I beg you love in the name of us together
Of my tortured raving jealousy
Don't go too far down the slope you've chosen
I am beside you trembling like a willow

I am frantic with fear of the sleep in your eyes
I gnaw a heart from this the heart I listen to
My love stop now in your dream along that road
Return your consciousness my exquisite pain to me

Louis Aragon is a major 20th century French poet. These translations are from his work Elsa.

About the translator: Peter Brown is a translator and fiction author. His collection of short fiction, A Bright Soothing Noise, (UNT Press) won the Katherine Ann Porter Prize. His translation of the book Elsewhere on Earth, (Guernica Press), by the French poet Emmanuel Merle, was long listed for the National Translation Award in Poetry (ALTA) in 2015. He is at work on variety of translation projects including Elsa by Louis Aragon, Le territoire aveugle by Jean-Pierre Chambon, and the collected poems of David Ferry translated into French. He the journal Salamander's senior editor.

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