This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Cecile Sauvage, translated from the French by Emily Vogel.
The gesture of your hand
hides your fierce glance; leaves your mouth
to wander over an uncertain murmur;
veil in your hair that by its nakedness
is unkempt and unruly
in the bright backdrop of morning
as you abscond in white
on the underground train
As you flee, a white foam of things
is crushed in an instant,
and you find your footing, pass through
the velvety green; and with you
a twig stirs, whispers, and subsides
into the sleep of still water.
And you revolve freely around the trees
on the velvet lawns;
with the curve of a frail gesture
his arms are around the slender
flesh of your neck.
All branches annihilate
to nothing but doubtful glimmers,
if nothing but for a languish
in a spectacular enclave
where you cross
your thin white legs,
and along your hip
your braided hair
is abundant and cascading
when you lean into
the white and slender birch.
And dance until the moon,
but as for the slow undulating body,
caress him by the hair, the fine curls
of his brown hair. Lengthen your arms
toward the branches
so long and whiter than the birches;
then cast them
to the hanging branches
and allow them to slowly fall
with a muted cadence, the beating heart
remaining like a held breath
as you begin to ponder things.
Then leave again unnoticed,
your laughing eyes and buoyant breasts
like renegades whose violet nipples
are cruel flowers. Bending, you can leave
your gestures in the cool of the wood.
Be quick, as if you have heard distant voices.
Naked lady, O my Venus,
revel in the hush that swarms among leaves,
and in your lazy lovemaking,
slow rhythms which gather all divine things.
O naked and beautiful!
O rise in your willowy shape,
like a distance, a noble caress,
your sober movements.
Something passes, and again passes,
an ancient figure in a dream
where you tilt your body
and succumb to ecstasy—
try in vain to stop
into the dark of the self.
Diverting, you sleepwalk
through a void
and you dance
in a cinema of sunlight.
The indecisive camber
tilts in the horizon
or you ride
in the pink and gray mists
of a certain flowering.
Turn your languid body
on the dark pond
for lack of wave or ripple,
as your whiteness fades
in the still water
and your undone hair
recedes into the lilies.
Slower and more discouraged,
your legs move through the pond
in a moment.
The shadow of them turns blue,
and brown twigs hang,
and here the moon is far too bright.
Let this be the moment
that matters; turning you
into something enigmatic,
half a laugh, a dance like a music
whose melody is sleeping.
The moon touches you
and ensconces you in clarity;
and you dance if only
for the mere rhythm—
this unclothed staggering
under the map of the moon
back on the avenue
of the blue evening. You are distant,
O and the silent cadence of your body
by the shady branches will be invaded,
by motion, or a dream of desire.
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