Night Notes

by Philippe Jacottet
Back to the wall
worm-eaten, precarious
let me scatter nothing but words
over the rooftops
(even thatch weighs too heavy
if it keeps out the apiary of the night) –
words that will do
what the flowers do, in blues and reds,
in perfume.
No more labyrinths
even if there’s a way out.
A corner post will do
and plenty of air –
the feet, the spirit, unbound
free to look and to touch –
thus to undermine
these below-stairs
griefs of the night.
The moon over the highway
was a bowl of milk
for Toby’s dog.
The child sits at the feet
of the very nice, very old lady
in the black dress of long ago –
in the workbasket
the thread of her life
yet to be unrolled,
and the scissors.
The ritual never changes.
The faces that turn to them
may change,
but at this or that place in the heavens
at the same season
the same candles burn.
I recall also a table at evening
and the beautiful eyes, meeting mine –
then averted.
For halo
these saints have only their hair
or the bees of our last sunset together
swarming behind.
There used to be
(in a room no longer ours)
a bed so dishevelled
you’d think my burning cloud
in her impatience had wrecked it
as she might rip a shirt.
Later will come tears
the kind that stain
once and for ever
the sheet’s coarse weave.
The nighthawk
is the dark Fates’ spinning wheel.
For those of us remaining
the thread is short.

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