Erasure translation of a poem by Jacques Brault

This entry is part 31 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas


Visitation, the long poem that begins Jacques Brault’s first collection, Mémoire (short extract with translation in this earlier post), is a complex evocation of cultural oppression and the poet’s sense of exile from self. It’s full of words and images that cannot but also evoke today’s physical exiles, the millions of refugees, and these suggested a much simpler and shorter erasure poem. French, with its changing word-endings, gives less scope for erasure than English, but the process was still an interesting way of engaging with language and emotions.

black-and-white photo of an Antony Gormley figure from his sculpture installation Another Place


Remember your nakedness, their exile
the man struggling to live

I find myself again at the appointed place
and thirsty for these words

I left my country with little pride
Exile is hard, my fear follows me

Silence is no longer possible – listen
some evening to what I shall say

Come closer and touch my voiceless misery
my faceless body, my silent hope

Poetry has no importance, but it speaks
Sweet violence rises up

My despair arrives with broken neck
no name, no past and harbouring no hatred

Some grey morning a comrade I cannot name
and a beloved country tremble

I shall live weighed down and bent over
my words still resounding from land to land

A shadow will trace the outline
of your pale face when I find it again.

(words and phrases culled from Jacques Brault’s nearly 900-word-long poem, Visitation)

Souvenez-vous / de / votre nudité / de leur exil /
de celui qui a mal de vivre /

Je me retrouve / au / rendez-vous /
J’ai soif / de / ces paroles /

J’ai quitté / le pays / peu fier /
L’exil est dur / ma peur / me suit /

Je ne sais plus / me taire /
Ecoute / ce que / je / dirai / un soir /

Approche et / touche / ma misère / sans voix /
mon corps / sans visage / ma silencieuse espérance /

La poésie / est / sans importance / mais elle / parle /
La violence / douce / se relève /

Ma détresse / arrive / le cou brisé /
sans nom / sans passé / et sans haine /

Un matin gris / une /compagne / innommable /
et / un pays aimé tremblent /

Je vivrai / lourd et penché /
Mes mots / vibrent encore / entre terre et terre /

Une ombre / tracera /
ta figure blanche / retrouvée.

Image: Another Place — photo by Jean Morris, 2007

Series Navigation← Nameless as the rain: two poems by Jacques BraultRafael Courtoisie’s Song of the Mirror (La canción del espejo): a videopoem by Eduardo Yagüe →


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