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from the December 2013 issue

Seven Irrational Sonnets


So I’ll once more find my old horizons,
cherished scent of winds and habitations.
Fear not if it seems I’m quitting the place.

I leave Paris just to love it better.

One tends to hurry a banal embrace.
But what’s this pride worth that’s past all seasons?   
Try to unite the heart with its reasons. 
The city, while smiling, leaves a rough trace.

I leave Paris just to love you better.

To love you better, I couldn’t picture—
Now I see the present whisks us away.   
To see you, I have to step back a bit.
I lock up my regrets, as will be fit,
Slipping my key under your entryway.



Poet, stay calm, but it’s not unforeseen,
One day you’ll write a poem numbered thirteen,
While rather anxious that the sky will fall.

I’m not superstitious, but all the same.

Thirteen, in days of yore, brought death to call
On shepherds in Sumer and Greece, umpteen
Year II troops, the English merchant marine!
At least, that’s the rumor that ran the hall.

Don’t believe it, no no, but all the same.

Committing blasphemy’s no parlor game.
If freethinking may have its charms for me, 
I’m quite wary of those who will lay blame; 
the thirteenth poem’s thirteenth line must lay claim
to some virtues that I just cannot see.



I’ll no longer haunt this lost location
Where my friends, gently, find some fixation,
Fixation I crave, though I play the stud,

For I love the smell of books most of all.

If I’ve swapped my pen for a plow and mud
(That is, lyric and inoculation),
If I’ve, I say, chosen field plantation,
I’ve not renounced my écriveron blood:

Still, I love the smell of books above all.

To regain that world that had me in thrall,
To meet, each day, my cousin the proofer!
To sniff the cold perfume of leather scrawl!
To relive, at last, the life I recall,
And egads! return like a proud victor!



Sometimes my friends pout, want to altercate,
And turn their backs. And then I speculate. 
Such as: I think they find me pretentious.

No, really, no joke, don’t I seem modest?

Pretentious! No slight is more spurious! 
I never judge, opine, incriminate!
My point of view will never dominate!
(Though my take’s often the most judicious.) 

Objectively speaking, I’m quite modest.  

Besides, consider one who will protest 
And likely thinks he’s unimpeachable.
Listen to him: he’ll keep scolding with zest,
Advise, contradict, exhort, and suggest,
And I’m the one who’s objectionable?



I’m no gourmand. But fine, on occasion,
Faced with a choice dish, I’ll gladly forge on.
Ah, don’t scorn the pleasures of the table!

Body suits mind; the heart, the gut rounds out.

I do tend to find game delectable,
Thrush with sea grapes or cornered venison,
But I can also happily feast upon
Ham omelets, a treat indisputable.

When the belly is full, the heart is stout.

Thus, I’ll be vanquisher of all my doubt
(save, of course, a crisis that’s hepatic).
Plus, I’m not much good playing the Boy Scout,
I can’t seem to refuse a pint of stout,
Which helps develop my zygomatic. 



I wish a poem were a passing humor,
No motive, no greed, a simple gesture,
The blithest dream of a young wood sleeping.

Yes, but even still: threshold, door, passage.

What silently joins magnet and filing,
A bite to the heart with its brown blister,
The pale glance of my prettiest reader
When she runs, at night, to meet her darling.

It’s just as I say: threshold, door, passage.

To life, death, an eye that’s not often sage, 
Horizon split by the sower’s labor,
Concealed kiss planted within your cleavage,
Ear inclined to the eternal message
And the dark silence of private clamor.



The last-born finishes this progression
Of lean, commoner versification
That would seek, sans éclat, to animate.

For I don’t have much taste for eloquence.

Sonnets “sans éclat”? Near apostolate.
Victory by singing, war clarion  
If I’d a shred of bold disposition 
Or a knack for throwing around my weight

Not to mention a yen for eloquence.

There’s no question. I don’t have the patience
To play Samson in Temple Parnassus.
Nor arms nor fitness nor impertinence.  
As one goes on, it’s of no consequence,
Like a morning breeze and like a chorus. 


From 41 Sonnets irrationnels. © Jacques Bens. By arrangement with the author's estate. Translation © 2013 by Rachel Galvin. All rights reserved.

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