Songs from below


from Songs from Below
Philippe Jaccottet
It’s easy to talk, and writing words on the page
doesn’t involve much risk as a general rule:
You might as well be knitting late at night
in a warm room, in a soft, treacherous light.
The words are all written in the same ink,
‘flower’ and ‘fear’ are nearly the same for example,
and I could scrawl ‘blood’ the length of the page
without splashing the paper or hurting
myself at all.

After a while it gets you down, this game,
you no longer know what it was you set out to achieve
instead of exposing yourself to life
and doing something useful with your hands.

That’s when you can’t escape,
when pain is a figure tearing the fog
that shrouds you, striking away
the obstacles one by one, covering
the swiftly decreasing distance, now
so close you can make out nothing
but his mug wider than the sky.

To speak is to lie, or worse: a craven
insult to grief or a waste
of the little time and energy at our disposal.

Might there be things which lend themselves
more readily to words, and live with them
-those glad moments gladly found in poems,
light that releases words
as if erasing them; while other things
resist them, change them, destroy them even –

as if language resisted death,
or rather, as if death consumed
even the words?