Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Poem by Henri Michaux

The Jetty (translated by Richard Ellmann)
During the month that I was living at Honfleur I had not yet seen the sea, for the doctor made me stay in my room.  
But last night, tired of being so isolated, I built, taking advantage of the fog, a jetty as far as the sea. Then, right at the end of it, letting my legs hang down, I looked at the sea, below me , which was breathing deeply. 
A murmur came from my right. It was a man sitting like me with legs swinging and looking at the sea. "Now that I am old" he said "I am going to pull up everything I have put there during the years."  He began to draw things up by means of pulleys. 
And he brought up riches in abundance. He brought up captains from other ages in dress uniforms, chests studded with all sorts of precious things, and women dressed lavishly but as they no longer dress. And as he brought each being or thing to the surface, he looked at it carefully with high hopes, then without saying a word, while his face fell, he pushed it behind him. So we filled up the entire pier. I don't remember exactly what there was, for I have no memory, but obviously it was not satisfactory, in everything something had been lost which he hoped to recover and which had faded away. 
Then he began to throw everything back into the sea. Like a long ribbon it fell and, when it wet you, froze you. A last piece of junk which he was pushing off dragged him in too. As for me, shivering with fever, I wonder how I was ever able to get back to my bed.  

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