Yves Bonnefoy: “May This World Endure”

May This World Endure


I straighten a broken branch
Its leaves are heavy
With water and shade
Like the sky, before

The break of day.  O Earth!
Discordant signs and scattered paths,
But beauty, beneath it all,
The beauty of a river.

May this world endure
In spite of death.
May the gray olive
Keep gripping its branch.


May this world endure
May the perfect leaves
In the trees ring forever
Around the fruit of appearance

May the hoopoes at dawn,
When the sky opens wide,
Forever flee the eaves
Of the empty barn

May they land over there,
As in a fairy tale,
Where everything is still
For still another hour.


May this world endure
May absence and word
Become one forever
In simple things.

Let each be to the other
What color is to shadow
What the gold of ripe fruit is
To the gold of dead leaves:

Not separating until
The coming of death
As water shines long after
Snowflakes melt in your hand


May the evidence continue
When each form has faded
Like the sky in a drying puddle
That no longer reflects it.

May this world endure
Just as it is tonight.
May others gain a share
In its endless fruit.

May this world endure
Between the brilliant dust
Of endless summer nights
Spent in a lonely room.

May the water of a downpour
Keep trickling forever
Down the road
In the sunlight.


May this world endure,
May words one day be
More than just gray bones
Birds peck away

Shouting and squabbling,
Eventually dispersing,
The birds that are our night
In the midst of so much light

May this world endure
The same way time disappears
When you tend to the wounds
Of a weeping child

And then return a little later
To his darkened room
To see he sleeps in peace:
Light in the midst of night


Drink, said the one
Who bent over him
When wept, now confident
Following his fall.

Drink, and let your hand
Open up my red dress
May your mouth consent
To its beautiful fever

The hurt that came to you
Has nearly stopped burning
Drink of this water,
This spirit of dreams.


Earth, who came to us
Eyes closed
As if to ask
For a guiding hand?

She would say: May our voices
That seek the nothingness
In each other
Be all we need

May our bodies ford the river
Of a broader time
May our hands know nothing
Of the other side

A little ways upstream,
May a child be born of nothing
And pass through nothing
From boat to boat.


And again: the summer
Will last but an hour
But may our hour be
Vast as the river

For it is through desire
And not through time
That oblivion has power
That death does its work

And see! My breast is naked
In the light
Whose dark paintings, undeciphered,
So quickly pass by.

Yves Bonnefoy

Translated from French by Paul Weinfield, © 2015

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