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 
and disappear.

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 
imploring Love 
and fleeing 
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.



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).