from Shadow-World

Roselyne Sibille

I Write to You from the Other Side of the Shadow

I write to you from the other side of the shadow
I write to you
          so I do not vanish
          so the words reveal me
          so you hear more than the void

Latitudes flee

The plural slipped through my fingers with certitudes
Latitudes flee into the tremors of the river

When the shadow leans towards smoke
does it lend
               to the void?

The Shadow Moans

The shadow steps forward in the fleeing reflection
sheer and slender
scarcely backing
leaning against time

How does one imagine the shadow of night?

The shadow knows not where the bridges stand
seeks its doppelganger                            and the breath
echoes a cry                                   thick and grey

The shadow awaits the porthole

The moon
on my head

Barbwire in your mouth

Barbwire in your mouth

The words clench
seek an exit
straighten up

The syllables strewn                       straying         unstable
crave to be              accrue the impossible
sail adrift from a world whose language we understand no more

You give up
You sip them                       behind your eyelashes

Days and days and aimless phrases

What alchemy was helplessly at play
that beneath the chestnut tree
your gaze should regain
the clarity of lakes in Chile
the softness of a dawn bare after the night of storm?

translated from the French by Karthika Naïr

Read the original in French

Read translator’s note

Roselyne Sibille is a French poet born in 1953 in France. She studied geography, and once worked as a librarian. She lives in Provence where she writes on her approach to the human being in connection with self and nature. She gives writing and listening lessons at the University of Aix-en-Provence and has created poetry workgroups at the University of Avignon. She leads writing workgroups for the association Partage d'horizons. She has been organizing writing workshops in the Sahara Desert for the association L'Ami du Vent. Caroline Calloch says of Sibille's work: "Her verses have the musical quality of a score. Language serves as a substitute for notes and forms a libretto . . . Roselyne Sibille's word music vibrates between two poetic silences." She has published several collections and collaborative works, including Lumière froissée (with paintings by Liliane-Eve Brendel), Par la porte du silence (with Bang Hai Ja), Versants and Tournoiements.

Karthika Naïr is the author of a poetry collection, Bearings (HarperCollins India, 2009). She lives in Paris, and works as a producer in performing arts. This proximity to performing arts and to dance, in particular, is refracted in much of her poetry, which has been published in several anthologies and journals including Indian LiteratureCaravan India, The Asia Mag, Live Mint, Terre à Ciel, Penguin's 60 Indian Poets and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian PoetsThe Literary Review and The Poetry Review. Her poems have been translated into French and Italian. Naïr co-scripted British-Bangladeshi choreographer Akram Khan's piece, Desh, which won the 2012 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. Young Zubaan will soon be bringing out The Boy, the Bees and Bonbibi, one of the stories she wrote for Desh, as an illustrated children's book. Nair is currently working on her next collection for HarperCollins.

These poems are from Roselyne Sibille's next collection, L'Ombre-Monde (Shadow-World). In Shadow-World, we enter a world of transience and metamorphosis where earth and water are made up of strokes and colours that are outlined, erased and then given new life in other forms.

Here is a world where the shadow is three-dimensional, elemental and — most importantly — a bearer of tales; tales that we could build to our hearts' desire from the shards of images that these poems reflect.

These poems, to me, seem as fragile and oneiric as age-old calligraphy, the quest for the perfect curve: they reclaim words to reflect the tumbling and vaulting of the soul.

Roselyne Sibille's world blithely demands both precision and creativity from a translator. Transposing her metaphors and visuals, though — or perhaps, rightly, since — shadowy, from one imaginary world to another is an adventure that is often very challenging, but also deeply satisfying when both she and I feel that we have found or built portholes between these worlds.