from Riddled Time

Alain Lance

Far from Vietnam

I listen babble the night crackle The news
What is the news Oh these meridians
Between thumb and index
People of other tongues already breakfasting
One country sputters another shuts up
A gentleman has just been proclaimed
World champion chicken plucker
The news      Such news
And always these two clipped words
In the drizzle of minor casualties.


A soldier overcome by mustard air
A rush of screaming swine at dusk
A shrunken baron trudging in the slough
An informant’s windpipe open to the clouds
A diplomatic fridge well-stocked with dynamite
A key witness delivered by the tide
An abundant summer thick with men who doubt


When night takes hold of the world
With its gravel its roses
Crossroads weary and undone
And the senseless orgasm of leaves
In sentimental parks

Delirium of speech or flight

The spring regains its darkened reign


I sense the north beg for its filings
I have an absent body scarcely heard
I fret about my scraps

Time begins to rust
Its knives in my space

The bird fetters itself to the ivy
Dusted with defeat

Scattered in the squabble
I go I swallow
Formless mouth


Spring and all that, the tulips
Raise a red goblet: take a sip
Of sun spilling over the eastern wall.
After all, why not spring
Whose raging fever and whose song
Come drenched in musick and muzak.
Springtime is an objective fact
Abject object festive act, etc.
Why weigh spring down, one might ask,
With a mortal body, this absent fear
I wouldn’t speak of it: to breathe
Without deceit is not the ordre du jour

Spring Fair! Praise white onions!
Tarragon, chives, and watercress!
Cook, my friends, because life

The new spring counts those who are gone.

translated from the French by Erika Luckert