Poetry: Cecile Sauvage (translated by Emily Vogel)

FUMEES

  FUMES

From Le Vallon: Poemes   From “The Valley”

LES DAMES TRANQUILLES

I

Quelle tranquille bienveillance
Pres de ces eaux remuees
Ou le soleil se balance
En traversant la feuillee.

Seul le reve voit nos danses
Enlacer les pins legers
Et nos pas pleins de cadence
Fondre comme des baisers.

A travers les greles rameaux
Une ville au loin se devine,
Vaporeuse, dans un reseau
De fume au creux des collines.
Les homes y vivent entre eux
Dans une pale inconscience;
L’air n’apporte de leurs jeux
Qu’un murmure de silence.

Ils s’acheminent parfois
Comme des ombres habillees
Dans le mystere du sous-bois
Sans que les feuilles reposes
Derangent leurs reves legers
Auxquels ils restent etrangers.

Mais la Dame qui sous la branche
D’un oeil penetrant les caresse
Voit trembler une lueur blanche
Autour de leur sobre rudesse:
Ce halo qui rend a jamais
Isole du reste des ames
Et qui nimbe leurs vieux effets
De son imperceptible flame.

Un songe estrange et recueilli
Sur toutes choses;
Une brume sur les habits
Et sur les roses.
Et dans leurs maisons fermees
Dire que les homes sont surs
De leurs lampes allumees,
De leurs meubles, de leurs murs.
Pourvu que tout ne s’effrite
Mollesse: penser ainsi
Que tout est fume,
La vierge aux seins epanouis,
La fleur, la branche incliner,
L’ombre, l’aurore, fumee.

Ce matin, un home est venu
Dans le secret de ces ramees
Ensevelir les restes nus
De son amie assassinee.
Il tatonnait somber et bourru
En murmurant des choses breves
Et c’est pourquoi nous avons cru
Qu’il ne faisait qu’un mauvais reve.

Mais peu apres, criant, pleurant,
Vinrent amis et parents
Et des homes de justice…

En ronde avec volupte
Tournons sous les feuilles lisses
Dans le silence d’ete.

Jouez, langoureuse lumiere,
Sur ces nappes de primeveres
Au bord d l’eau,
Dans l’indolence qui persiste
Du vallon ou l’ame n’existe
Qu’a demi-mots.

O ville pleine de brume
Qui t’evapores et fumes,
Contiens-tu de longs debats?
La lune au bois se balance
Et nous pursuivons nos danses
Sur la pelouse tout bas.

THE QUIET LADIES

1

What quiet benevolence
near these waters stir
like sunlight vacillating
along the leaves.

Only the dream perceives our waltz
embracing the feathery pine,
and fast, replete,
it deliquesces like a kiss.

Through the slender twigs
there is a city far from guessing,
vaporous, in a network
of smoke among the hills.
Men live there together
in the blade of the unconscious;
and the air ensconces their deceit
in whispered silences.

They endure sometimes
dressed like shadows in the mystery
of the undergrowth
bereft of rested leaves
that disturb their dreams, aloft,
where they remain mere as strangers.

But the lady on the threshold
of his penetrating eye
sees the trembling caress
around the harsh and sober glow:
it makes a halo,
never isolated from the rest,
from anyone’s soul,
from their nimbus, like
the imperceptible sound
of an old flame.

A strange dream
and all things recollected;
a mist on everyone’s clothes
and on all the roses.

And in their closed houses,
men are sure of keeping their lights on,
keeping clean their furniture, their walls.
Provided that everything
crumbles into softness:
consider that everything is smoke,
virgin breasts blossoming, the flower,
the inclined branch, shadow,
dawn, smoke.

This morning, a man came
into the interior of these trains
that hold the naked remains
of his murdered friend.
He fumbled dark and surly,
murmuring brief things,
and that’s why we thought
it was only a terrible dream.

But not long after, crying, weeping,
friends and relatives came running
to the calling of sirens…

Round, and voluptuous,
the smooth leaves turn
in the languid summer.

Play, silence of light, on this veneer
of primroses along the water,
in the indolence that persists,
or the intimation of some elusive soul
in the valley.

O, mist filled city,
will your smoke evaporate
which contains your long debates?
Moon, and forests swing and swing
like we continue dancing
on the whispers of the lawn.

II

La melancolie aux ailes d’oiseau
Flotte sur la terre,
Le vent la conduit sur les tristes eaux
Et la plaine amere.

2

The quiet grief of bird wings
floats above the earth,
and the wind drives the water
on the sad and bitter plain.

III

Entends-tu le grlot lointain des voitures
Dans le matin rose?
Ta vitre est close
Et que t’importe l’arbre, un champ et sa verdure?
Porquoi t’obstines-tu cependant a sasir
Dans le lointain leger de cette matinee
Ces grelots eveillant le langoureux dormer
Des violettes et de l’herbe satinee?
Ah! Comme ces grelots et pietinement
De la pendule uni a celui de ton sang
Composent la rumeur fuyante de ta vie
Dans la paix qui t’enserre avec melancolie.

3

Do you hear the distant rattle of cars
in the pink morning?
Your window is closed.
And do you matter to the tree,
to the field and its greenery?
You are obstinate
and however you enter, the distance
is slight; this morning the bells
and the trampling of time
moved through you
as your blood moved through you
like the rumor of your life
in tranquility that endows you
with a strange sentiment.

IV

Le brouillard fondu
Prend les arbres nus
Dans sa molle haleine.
Le jardin frileux
Sous un voile bleu
Se devine a peine.

Le soleil blafard
Resout le brouillard
En perles d’eau blanche
Don’t le tremblement
Miroite et s’etend
A toutes les branches.

4

Evanescent fog
takes the leafless trees
in its soft breath.
The cold garden
under a blue veil of sky
is hardly a guess.

The pale sun
resolves the fog
in white water pearls
which shimmer and tremble
amid all the branches.

V

L’azur d’un soir gris.
Un vague arc-en-ciel s’allonge et verdit
Sur la cote obscure;
Sa courbe legere et rose grandit
De plus en plus pure.
A I’endroit ou l’arc suave incline
Rejoint la colline,
Les arbres d’hiver prennent sa clarte,
Dans leurs branches fines.

5

The azure gray of evening.
A rainbow’s varied wave
lengthens and turns green
on the dark side; and its slight pink curve
is clean as a cheek. In the place
where the smooth bows join the hill,
winter trees take their clarity,
their slender branches.

VI

Un oiseau chante comme une eau
Sur des cailloux et des pervenches.
Quelle odeur de printemps s’epanche
De cette pure voix d’oiseau.

6

A red-wing sings like water
over pebbles and periwinkles.
What redolence of spring prevails
like the pure voice of this bird.

VII

Le paysan vieux et casse
Rejoint son obscure chaumine
Qui somnole sur la colline
Dans le velours tender d’un pre.
It voit d’en bas tourner le chien
Et la lueur d’un jeune pin
Se detacher doucement verte
Dans l’ombre de la porte ouverte.

7

And it breaks the old peasant
indebted to his obscure cottage
dozing on the hill
in the soft velvet of somebody’s father.
He turns to see the dog
down in the glow of a young green pine
as it gently detaches itself
in the shadow of the open door.

VIII

L’homme et son fils menant leur vache d’un pas lourd
S’en vont sur le chemin luisant encore de pluie.
Un soleil velouteux et gris de petit jour
Enveloppe en revant la montagne endormie.
La vache dit adieu a son dernier matin:
Plus jamais le pre vert out sautait sa mamelle
Lourde et riche a plaisir d’un printanier butin.
Pourtant, que cette aurore a l’air d’etre eternelle!

8

A man and his son are leading their cow
which stomps to go off on the slick road
one more time in the rain.
A velvety gray sun at dawn envelops
the dreaming mountain.
The cow says goodbye to his last morning:
in the ever-green meadow
he leaps with his heavy, intense breast
and revels in spring.
Yet that dawn seems to be eternal.

IX

La lune pale, reveuse
Et tansparante a demi
Glisse sur la vaporeuse
Douceur d’un ciel endormi.
Dans les branches denudes
Et si greles d’un bouleau
Une lueur irisee
Incline ses calmes eaux.
C’est l’hiver et sa tristesse
Avec de muets oiseaux
Se bercant a la sveltesse
Sans feuillage des rameaux.

9

The pale moon, dreamy
and half transparent
shifts along the divinity
of an indolent and hazy sky.
In the stripped and slender branches
of a birch tree
an iridescent glow tilts in its calm waters.
It is winter
and grief with its cold birds
has its enervations in rocking chairs
and leafless branches.

X

Homme au grand chapeau tombant,
A la figure fletrie,
Quelle estrange horlogerie
Vous fait aller titubant?
Quel Coeur dans votre poitrine
Eveille des souvenirs?
Voyez-vous l’ombre divine
De la lune revenir,
Ou bien n’etes-vous qu’un reve
Flottant en vagues habits
A travers les heures breves
Et sous les ceils engourdis?

10

Man with large hat falling
like a withered figure,
what makes you go reeling
in such a strange watchmaking?
What in your heart awakens memories?
Do you see the divine shadow of the moon
from afar, or are you in a dream
floating in your clothes,
in the waves,
through the brief hours
under numb skies?

XI

J’ai vu ce matin la lune
Pale dans les longs bouleaux
Et cette image importune
Reviendra dans mon cerveau.
Elle viendra persistante
Comme un avertissement
Dans un reve qui me hante,
Et j’ai le bref sentiment
Qu’au jour de ma destinee
Dans un bouleau langoureux
Luiront nettement les feux
De cette lune obstinee.

11

I saw this morning a pale moon
in the long birch
and recall this unwelcome picture
in my brain. It will come
as a persistent warning
in a dream that plagues.
I feel that brief day of my destiny
in a birch, a languish of lights
shining like so much
of this obstinate moonlight.

XII

Voici des enfants qui passent
Et qui gardent dans leurs coeurs
Le trouble des doux espaces
Ou la nature est en fleurs.

De la terre abstraite et pale
Auront-ils d’autres lueurs
Que cette heure matinale
Qui s’embrume dans leurs coeurs?

Plus tard a l’ombre assoupie
D’indifference ou l’on meurt,
Ils ne verront de leur vie
Qu’un bref espace et ces fleurs.

12

Here are children who pass
and keep in their hearts
the trouble of soft spaces
where nature is in bloom.

Amid the abstract and pale earth
will they have other lights
that early hour
which fogs in their hearts?

Later in the shadow of sleepy indifference
or when one dies,
they will see their life as a brief space—
and these flowers.

XIII

Ils vivent, Dieu, ils respirent,
Des femmes vont leur sourire.
De quell pale souvenir
S’aideront-ils pour mourir?
Ah! Que le Coeur enfantin
Des homes est tender encore
Quand monte l’aurore
Du dernier matin.
Vers quell bercement de femme
Se retournent-ils alors?
O pauvre home, tu t’endors
Et quelle nuit te reclame.

13

They live, God, they breathe,
women will smile at them.
What sharp edges do they remember
that would perpetuate death?
Ah! The child’s heart is still tender
at the early sunlight
of the last morning.
What woman is rocking backward
towards her own childhood?
O poor man, you fall asleep,
and what night claims you?

XIV

Ne cherche pas de tes mains
A raccrocher la lumiere,
Personne ne te reticent
Et cette heure est la derniere.
Ta mere est morte elle aussi.
Te revois-tu tout petit?
Que la pelouse etait verte
Sous les fenetres ouvertes.

14

You are not looking
for your hands to hang
like light, no one holds you
and this is the last time.
Your mother is dead too.
Do you still see so little?
The lawn was so green
under the open windows.

XV

C’est lorsque l’abeille
Se balance sur les fleurs,
C’est lorsque s’eveille
Du silence et de l’odeur
Une melodie
Fluide comme l’air pali
Ou l’ombre et la vie
S’assoupissant a demi…

15

When the bee is poised
on the flowers
is when the silence rouses,
and the sound is an easy melody
like an ancient ghost, air, or shade
in a half-life doze…

XVI

Regarde sous ces rameaux
Ou murmurent les oiseaux
Toutes ces croix alignees:
Ce sont les tristes epees
Qui nous fixeront au sol;
Et pourtant, ce rossignol…

16

Look in these branches
or hear the whispering of birds
all murmuring along the alignment
of a cross: it is the sad swords
that will set us in the ground;
and yet then the nightingale…

XVII

Ame profonde et tranquille,
Tu vois les monts et la ville
D’un meme grave regard.
Dans la mousseline blanche,
Reveusement tu te penches
Sur le fond gris du brouillard.
La lune qui se balance
Est partie avec silence
De l’arbre humide et fumeux;
On n’etend rien de la plaine
Que la rumeur incertaine
Des hommes vivant entre eux.

17

Deep and tranquil soul,
you see the mountains and the city
with the same serious look.
In white muslin, you lean dreamily
into the gray fog. The moon hangs
in the west, moves silent through
the dew-tipped and smoky tree;
you hear nothing of the plain
where the uncertain rumor of
men living together murmurs.

XVIII

Marecageuse humanite
Don’t la voix au loin murmure
Pareille aux crapauds secrets
De l’etang sous la verdure,
Pince tes violons clairs;
Ton chant est vide et si triste
D’etre habituel dans l’air
Comme un rythme qui persiste.

18

Marshy humanity
whose voice whispers in the distance
like the secrets of the green toads
in the pond, play your elucidated violins;
chant a tone, barren as grief
that it is usual in the air
like a rhythm that persists.

XIX

La ville sous la fumee
Du soir et des cheminees
Flotte en un reve etranger
Et s’efface. Son eglise
De fines colonnes grises
Pareilles aux pins legers,
Sur le fond de la colline
Grandit, sans age et divine
Dans le soir desespere.

19

The city in the evening
and chimney smoke;
a foreign and fleeting dream fades.
The church of fine gray columns
are like the feathery pine trees
growing on the bottom of the hill,
ageless and desperate
in the divinity of evening.

XX

Ainsi, voila l’espace ou ma vie a tourney,
Ces monts, ces arbres sombres,
C’est pour ces incidents si vains et si legers
Que je sortis des ombres.

Pour cette humble fenetre ou l’azur assoupi
Balance des abeilles,
Pour ces reves menus don’t mon Coeur endormi
A caresse ses veilles.

Je n’etais que cela, je ne suis que cela,
O ma vie isolee,
Et le temps a choisi d’acheminer mes pas
Au sein de ces vallees.

Adieu le souvenir, adieu toutes saisons
Mauvaises ou joyeuse;
Le jour passe et je donne aux brises du gazon
Mon ame harmonieuse.

20

So here is the space
or span of my life,
these mountains, these dark trees.
And it is for these incidents,
so vain and so scant
that I came out of the shadows.

For this humble window
or the blue haze of drowsy bees,
stories for these dreams
as my heart was asleep
caressed him like a vigil.

I was just that, I do this,
O but my insulated life,
and the time has come
for my steps to resound
in these valleys.

Remember and farewell,
farewell all offensive or happy seasons;
days pass
and I hurl myself
like the wind through the grass
and the imperceptible swarm of the spirit.

XXI

Donnez-moi le souvenir
Des plus jeunes matinees,
Gretes feuilles satinees
Qui vous bercez a Plaisir.
Donnez-moi cette harmonie
Ou vos rameaux endormis
Dans les brises assouplies
Se reveillant a demi.
Que ne suis-je l’oiseau calme
Qui descend l’escalier vert
De vos elastiques palmes
Ou glisse le ciel desert.

21

Give me the memory
of younger mornings,
satiny and slender leaves
which please him.
Give me the suspension
or your sleeping branches
in an easy
and half-awake wind.
I don’t know why I am
this calm bird
coming down the stairs
dreaming of green and elastic fins
sliding in the desert sky.

XXII

Si pale, si noble, si pure,
Soeur pensive de la nature
Qui se cache au milieu des fleurs,
Quelle est cette ame somnolente
Balancee aux frissons des plantes
Dans la lumiere et la douceur?

22

So pale, so noble, so pure,
thoughtful sibling of nature
lurking among the flowers,
what is this drowsy soul
poised to instill shivers
of light?

XXIII

Ne chantez pas ni ne pleurez,
O douce Dame musicale,
Passez sur l’herbe sans froisser
La pervenche et la digitale.
Penchez-vous sur l’etang reveur
Ou se refletent les ombrages
Et songez a cette rumeur
De la brise dans le feuillage.

23

Do not sing nor weep,
O gentle lady of music,
rush to the fields
without blighting
the vinca and foxglove.
Lean over the dreaming lake
or reflect like the shade
and consider that this rumor
has the wind in its foliage.

XXIV

J’ai compose cette vallee
A force d’y rever longtemps.
L’ombre sur la route sable
Se balance legerement
Et les oiseaux ont des souplesses
De fleurs au bout de leurs rameaux
Dans la pelouse ou je me dresse
Comme une fougere sur l’eau.

24

I have been dreaming
long in the valley.
The shadows in the road
sway slightly
and birds are easy like flowers
after their stems
have been strewn on the lawn.
Perhaps I stand
like a fern on the water,
or perhaps I don’t stand at all.














I first learned of Cecile Sauvage while reading Simone De Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” in which Beauvoir lauded her work. From there I began a fervent reconnaissance of her poetry, and also discovered that she had a very close and passionate relationship with her son, the French composer, Olivier Messain, both while he was in the womb and after he was born. I was drawn to her work primarily because it raised concerns pertaining to birth and motherhood, which is a realm I am familiar with myself, after recently given birth to two children in two years. I felt an eerie kinship with this poet because of her fierce connection to her first child in infancy. I am also drawn to her symbolist approach to poetry, and a secondary subject in her work: a romantic relationship that she carried on with one of her publishers, via epistolary correspondence, something which broke her heart, and also kept her enduring.






Emily Vogel’s poetry has been published widely, most recently in OmniVerse, The Paterson Literary Review, Lips, City Lit Rag, Luna Luna, Maggy, Lyre Lyre, The Comstock Review, The Broome Review, Tiferet, The San Pedro River Review, and 2 Bridges Review, among several others. She is the author of five chapbooks, and a full-length collection, The Philosopher’s Wife, published in 2011 by Chester River Press, a collaborative book of poetry, West of Home, with her husband Joe Weil (Blast Press), and a recently released collection, First Words (NYQ Books). She has work forthcoming in The Boston Review and The Comstock Review. She teaches writing at SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College, and lives with her husband, the poet Joe Weil, and their two children, Clare and Gabriel.

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