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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