from The Nothing Bird

Pierre Peuchmaurd

Glimmers

The glimmers of our world: the river crow spreading its wide blue wings in the drowning shade.

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On a yellow stone, a white mane—a glimmer of wind.

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Glimmers of fire in the mirror: the auburn one returning, all body and tides.

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Glimmers of fear: like a necklace dangling between your breasts, snapped by the night's shrill cry.

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Glimmers of dawn, a barbed dance. Glimmer of the trees—we must leave.

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This is no white creature, this is a hole in the sky.

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The glimmers of the wolf, glowing she-wolves—a dogwood barks in their joint song.

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Rock or heather. The glimmers of the roosters. Desire ruffles the crests, the countryside and its moons.

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The glimmers of vines: wrestlers bound by their lion spirit, their spears and their indigo blue.

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It's a king, it's a chair, it's a lighthouse standing in the clay.

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The glimmers of lakes, of iron, of girls. Glimmers of fog and of bare land.

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The glimmer of feathers, of little dresses, and of remorse. Glimmers of blood in the garden.

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It's a shoulder.

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The glimmers of arrows. The glimmers of otters inside their prey.

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And rust in the hands left open. The glimmers of the wounds along the knife.

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The sand glimmers like nothing, like nothing glimmers, like sky and lead on the patio. The sand runs, it does not glimmer.





The Foam of Lions

It's raining, we count the hearts of the palm tree. Elsewhere, a wall burns against a white sky, blue lions sigh after blue prey. But lions, you say, don't sigh. I watch their prey, I sigh. The desert's door has closed behind us.

*


Their tails whip the sand. In the air, a mane floats within reach of your lips. Three yellow-eyed lionesses have arched their spine well, but against the wind brushing the earth, not the large absent limb you bite in your dream. A white rafter holds the night.

*


Obscure lions in hallways, but where do they go? Light, the lions under the waterfalls, pounded white, their bones, their flesh tossed to the world, the foam of lions. They're startled by the persistence of their thirst, by the gazelle that laughs in her sleep, by the girl from the sky with lead fangs.

*


Copper lions, bracelets of bone, and the nabules tintinabulating at nightfall. The black hunter strings his harp into the morning. The sky is high, the bird from the water flies like a lion. Cargos of roses, trains of dust, the harp is stringed and the lion no longer has a shadow. Trains of dust, copper blood.

*


At noon, the lions are a speck of sand. At noon, the lions are smoke rings, rafts of light, hedges of lace, mirages of salt and emerald. At noon, the lions have closed their eyes to the expectation of night that will see them standing tall and tamed and licking your stomach—the night of blood curdled on your rumps, on your ruins.

*


But in the dream of the lionesses, one or one thousand is all the same. Everything roars, everything falls silent; the dawn does not lift a breath. What was that zebra called again?        


translated from the French by E.C. Belli



Read the original in French

Read translator’s note

Pierre Peuchmaurd (1948-2009) was born in Paris. Over the course of his career he published dozens of works; his poetry, however, never gained widespread recognition. With little taste for the politics of poetry, his often short, lyrical poems populated by myriad animals, women, colors, and death, acquired instead a small but cult following. He was a regular contributor to Les Cahiers de l'Umbo and Le Bathyscaphe and was involved in many surrealist ventures, such as the Éditions Maintenant, Éditions Toril, and the literary journal Le Cerceau. In 1990 he founded the Éditions Myrddin, which he directed until 2008. His fascination with surrealism resulted from a fortuitous meeting with André Breton in his teenage years. Though his poetry came to transcend the boundaries of a surrealist work—by being both more lyrical and inhabited by more substantial narratives—Peuchmaurd never forgot the movement and the artists that first inspired him. He died in Brive.

E.C. Belli is a poet and translator. A Swiss native, she is the recipient of a 2010 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans and her poetry has appeared in Guernica, Gulf Coast, The Antioch Review as well as in Europe: revue littéraire mensuelle and PO&SIE (France), among others. Her chapbook, Plein Jeu, won Accents Publishing's 2010 Poetry Chapbook Contest. Her prose is regularly featured at Words Without Borders and BOMBlog. She is an editor at Argos Books and writes in both French and English. Her translation of a selected volume of poems by Pierre Peuchmaurd, The Nothing Bird, is forthcoming with Oberlin College Press this fall.


Pierre Peuchmaurd may have surrealist roots (a fortuitous meeting with André Breton in his early teenage years prompted a lifelong love for surrealism), but his readers should not believe they have entered a dreamscape. The impetus of his poems is reality, where death and desire combine to shape everything. To him, the notion of writing poetry with a conceptual purpose is utterly unthinkable. At the root of his poems, then, is the seen thing. He bears witness, he echoes. Above all, the reader should sense reality waiting to be grasped. The lexicon needs to feel familiar, friendly, somehow known. The two poems are tender, rich in anaphora, endowed with a light narrative and with a simple vernacular. Peuchmaurd assimilates his surroundings with equal measure of amazement and objectivity. All of those qualities find readers harking back to their childhoods—a time when tenderness and cruelty cohabit in an especially perverse manner—and infuses them with a strange kind of nostalgia. This atmosphere is key to the poems and presents tone and lexicon as two major factors to consider when translating.


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