Monday, October 18, 2010

Medicine Show

for Louis Dumur

Across the plain the mountebanks
Slip away past garden walls
Past the doors of smoky taverns
Through villages without churches

And the children lead the way
The others follow dreaming
The fruit trees give in one by one
When they beckon them from afar

They carry barbells and dumbbells
Drums and gilded hoops
The bear and the monkey wise beasts
Beg small change along the way

translation by  Jack Hayes © 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Merlin & The Old Woman

The sun on that day swelled like a maternal
Belly bleeding slowly through the sky
The light is my mother O bloody light
The clouds flowed like menstrual flux

At the crossroads where only a thornless
Compass rose flourished in winter
Merlin kept watch on life and the eternal cause
Making the universe die then be born anew

An old woman green mantled on a mule
Followed the riverbank downstream
And ancient Merlin on the deserted plain
Beat his breast and cried out Rival

O my frozen being whose fate overwhelms me
Whose flesh-sun shivers do you wish to see
My Memory my twin coming to love me
To see that fine unfortunate son I long to hold

His gesture toppled the upheavals’ pride
The dancing sun stirred its own navel
And suddenly the springtime of love & valor
Led a young April day by the hand

The roads from the west were strewn with
Bones with weeds thick with fate and flowers
With memorials trembling by green carrion
While the winds conveyed down and misfortune

Dismounting her mule his lover stepped forward lightly
With a light touch the breeze smoothed her finery
Then the pale lovers joined their mad hands
The knot of their fingers formed the space of their love

She dangled miming a rhythm of existence
She cried I hoped for your call for a hundred years
The stars of your life held sway over my dance
Morgana watched from Mount Gibel’s summit

Ah, it’s sweet to dance when a mirage of singing
Breaks out and the winds of horror
Feign the hilarious moon’s laughter
And frighten the ghostly forerunners

I fashioned white gestures in the desert
Lemurs swarmed through my nightmares
My whirling expressed the bliss
That is nothing but the Art’s pure effect

I only plucked the hawthorn’s blooms
At springtime's end when they wished to be deflowered
When birds of prey proclaimed their ravaging
Of stillborn lambs and child gods doomed to death

I have aged you see while you live I dance
But I would soon have wearied and hawthorn blossoms
This April would have kept a poor secret
The corpse of an old woman who died miming sorrow

And their hands rose like a bright flock of doves
That night fell upon like a vulture
Then Merlin moved to the east saying May he rise
Memory’s son Love’s peer

Whether he rises from muck or may be man’s shadow
He is indeed my son my immortal work
His brow haloed with fire on the road to Rome
He will walk alone watching heaven

The lady who awaits me is named Vivian
And when springtime comes with new sorrows
Lying amongst the marjoram and coltsfoot
I will last interminably under the hawthorn

© Jack Hayes 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Door

The hotel door smiles terribly
What has this done to me mother
Being the clerk for whom alone nothing exists
Pi-mus fish moving coupled through deep sad water
Fresh angels disembarked at Marseilles yesterday morning
I hear a distant song dying and dying again
Humble as I am who am worth nothing

Child I've given you what I had labor

translation © Jack Hayes 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010


If John the Baptist might smile once again
Sire I would dance better than seraphim
Tell me mother what makes you grieve
Attired as a countess at the Dauphin’s side

My heart throbbed it throbbed at his words
As I danced through the fennel listening
And embroidered lilies across a pennant
To flutter at last from the tip of his staff

Tell me for whom I’ll embroider them now
His staff blooms anew on the banks of Jordan
King Herod when your soldiers led him away
All the lilies shriveled in my garden

Come with me everyone under the quincunx
            Don’t cry delightful jester
Take this head as your cap and bells and dance
Don’t touch his brow mother it has grown cold

Sire lead the procession let the guard follow
We’ll dig a hole and bury it
We’ll plant flowers and dance in a ring
Till the hour I lose my garter
                The king his snuffbox
                The princess her rosary
                The priest his breviary

translation © Jack Hayes 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Farewell

I plucked this sprig of heather
Autumn’s dead remember this
We’ll see each other no more on earth
Scent of time sprig of heather
And remember I await you

translation © Jack Hayes 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Poem Read At André Salmon’s Wedding

July 13 1909

Seeing the flags this morning I didn’t tell myself
Behold the rich garments of the poor
Or democratic modesty wants to veil its sorrow
Or honoring liberty now makes us imitate
Leaves o vegetable liberty o sole earthly liberty
Or the houses are ablaze because we’ll leave never to return
Or these restless hands will labor tomorrow for us all
Or even they’ve hanged those who couldn’t make the most of life
Or even they’ve renewed the world by recapturing the Bastille
I know it’s only renewed by those grounded in poetry
Paris is decked out because my friend André Salmon’s getting
        married there

We used to meet up in a damned dive
When we were young
Both of us smoking and shabbily dressed waiting for sunrise
Smitten smitten with the same words whose meanings will have
        to be changed
Deceived deceived poor kids and we still didn’t know how to laugh
The table and two glasses became a dying man who cast us
        Orpheus’ last glance
The glasses fell shattered
And we learned how to laugh
We parted then pilgrims of perdition
Across streets across countries across reason
I saw him again on the bank of the river where Ophelia was floating
Who still floats white amongst the water lilies
He went off amongst wan Hamlets
Playing the airs of madness on his flute
I saw him near a dying muzhik counting his blessings
While admiring the snow that looked like naked women
I saw him doing this or that in honor of the same words
That change children’s expressions and I’m saying these things
Recollection and Expectation because my friend André Salmon is
        getting married

Let’s rejoice not because our friendship has been the river that
        made us fertile
River lands whose abundance is the nourishment all hope for
Or because our glasses cast once more Orpheus’ dying glance
Or because we’ve grown so large that many people confuse our
        eyes with stars
Or because flags flap at the windows of citizens who’ve been
        content these hundred years to have life and trifles to defend

Or because grounded in poetry we have the right to words that
        form and unmake the
Or because we can weep without being absurd and because we
        know how to laugh
Or because we’re smoking and drinking as in the old days
Let’s rejoice because the director of fire and poets
Love filling like light
All the solid space between stars and planets
Love wishes that my friend André Salmon get married today

translation © Jack Hayes 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

White Snow

Angels the angels in the skies
One’s dressed up like an officer
One’s dressed up like a chef
And the others are singing

Comely officer color of the skies
Long long after Christmas gentle spring
Will decorate you with a shining sun
With a shining sun

The chef plucks the geese
Ah! let the snow fall
And fall if only I held
My beloved in my arms

translation © Jack Hayes 2010