This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Francis Ponge, translated from the French by Jonathan Larson.


The Pear-Trees

Les Fleurys, April 10 1950, afternoon.

         (These are the pear-trees that are given to you in today’s human terms.)
         Look how the pear-trees want to say themselves today. The lower part of the orchard’s register is ruled. The commanded trunks and the branches write themselves there slowly, with application. The higher part rests unspent, reserved for vernal liberty.
         Their writing (in the orchard) on the trellis is rather slow, a little higher than it is round, strongly applied, irregular enough, knotted, twisted and trembling; resting lightly, black enough : there’s for the trunk, the branches and branchettes. (There’s what suffices, for etc.)
         Lauching themselves from there into the springtime of sticklets (rodlets) (vectors) pushing vertically a lot more quickly, decidedly; throwing from right and left quick projectiles of leaves, quickly carried through, realized; all the same; as one mails wingtips, and «et ceteras», to occupy the air, as flank-guards (or as one quickly occupies a devolved space, to assure one’s breathing). Like the marvelous antlers of the reindeer or the stag. These are little pennants and (spinning) spoons all at once. Et cetera.
         Thus they affect rodlets in all possible directions, when in season. One sees those on which one passes by again (to return for several recoveries) to put it in broad strokes, one sees this later on.
         At the same time, at the very beginning of said season, in several places (as well as from the trunk itself, as main branches or weeds) they raise up bouquets, that’s to say what brings them the most – and that in the exact number, but quite variable, which signifies the year’s power of production. Carefully, lovingly grouped and clothed and presented in white costumes and ceremonial roses, of ravishing, tempting, adorable, frail (and not so fragile as that) bouquets of reddening tendrils. Lacking the color (ink and brush of tender green, then darker.) Where then, at least in some of them, God knows what takes place, in their little open breeches (corollas) open (frilled), God knows what mysterious coitus, bee kisses, or simple orgasm of the individual and solitary nerves, or pollination by air, by the tremoring of the petals or pistils in the zephyr or some automatic deglutition in the sun (they are so sensible, so swelled up, these little clitorises, these vulvas so swelled up, the bared mucous membrane! Anything can make them play, can pollinate them.)
         Seasonal ingenuity.
         Immediately all the comedy of tender colors ceases (until new order), the petals are cleared, thrown on top of the chair, or the ground, or abandoned to the air. It’ll be about swelling up this here, slowly, carefully, under the protection and diversion (the vulgar ballet of diversion) of the leaves, more and more arrogant and familiar, in a more and more numerous population, around the bandstands in droves.
         To swell up this here? What, this here?The pear (whose question will be for another time).
         It has its bottom wreathlet, the little pear, etc. (paragraph to swell up, to nourish, to water, to sweeten all the way to the seeds that are to be put there, which gives you the true taste of the tree, a bit bland).
         And all this takes place seriously in the orchard, in the bluish overclouding atmosphere of the wind-gusts, or in the great momentary aestival ecstasies of a sun that doesn’t jest, that more or less punctually, but always brutally, executes its function.
         The big fruit-trees in your regions (people of the temperate septentrion), are the most knotty, short, squat, twisted. Truly, that’s why they’re often sharpened to a point, cut up, amputated to keep the fruit’s sap. These are the disabled stumps. Slow (to enter) (in)to function. Armored like turtles or certain prehistoric animals.
         As for their same fruit (pears, apples, prunes), they’re hardly more successful berries.


Confirmation of the Pear-Trees

Les Fleurys, April 12 1950 (night).

         Today, to pick up the outlined pear-trees from twelve days ago again, it seems evident to me (what, I’d been so blind!) that their knotted «writing», the form of their trunks, branches and reams is the consequence of severe, rigorous successive amputations which they are submitted to (for their regular pruning). They were rigorously trimmed, erased. There’s a certain relationship of amputation, of erasing, to stump, then from stump to large fruit (large pears).


         Thus, often, when one trims (practices amputations on) the language (a sentence), certain words that remain take this character (trunks or branches of pear-trees) : so it seems that the quill were passed over to them, that they were confirming themselves.
         In any case, the look of the reader must, in their turn, in every necessity, often pass over these words, because of the abstruse way of the text : overly concise, overly clashed. These words, these parts of the text, swell up interiorly, regain strength but come out knotty, cut up. They’re confirming. They’re confirmed.
         They become thicker, knottier, charged besides with sense (and the possibility of flowers and fruits). For trimming something, one automatically confirms what remains.
         This genre of style (like that of the pear-trees) makes strong writing (more writing than speaking) (cf. Mallarmé).
         There’s the rhetoric of the pear-tree.
         Above all, what’s interesting in these trees is this. From these confirmed stumps (of old, infirm, arthritics) the bouquets of first communiants or brides are born. From the twisted black, the white and the rose.

         All that hasn’t been cut, is passed over there, once again every spring. This takes on a terribly engorged character. All that accumulates there infuses itself directly, by the shortest peduncle, in the pear, that blows up beautifully.


         This confirmation, the mosses still confirm it in attaching themselves to these trunks and limbs as to old rocks (old rockwork), and much more gladly than that of much older and larger trunks of smooth trees.


         The word certainly expresses well enough these confirmed parts of the pear-trees.



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