30 MAI 1932 by Rene-Guy Cadou

Just you and I in the attic,
My father.
The walls have collapsed.
Flesh has given way.
The debris of the blue sky tumbles all around.
I see your face more clearly.
You’re weeping.
Tonight we share the same age
Before these her remembered hands

10 o’ clock.
The wall clock striking
And blood recoiling.
Everyone’s gone.
House closed.
Far away the wind pushes at an early star.

No-one remains.
But you are there,
My father,
And like bindweed,
My arm tugging at yours,
You wipe away my tears,
hot across your fingers.


Il n’y a plus que toi et moi dans la mansarde

Mon père
Les murs sont écroulés
La chair s’est écroulée
Des gravats de ciel bleu tombent de tous côtés
Je vois mieux ton visage
Tu pleures
Et cette nuit nous avons le même âge
Au bord des mains qu’elle a laissées

Dix heures
La pendule qui sonne
Et le sang qui recule
Il n’y a plus personne
Maison fermée
Le vent qui pousse au loin une étoile avancée

Il n’y a plus personne
Et tu es là
Mon père
Et comme un liseron
Mon bras grimpe à ton bras
Tu effaces mes larmes
En te brûlant les doigts.

(René-Guy CADOU, Amis les Anges, 1943)

2 Replies to “30 MAI 1932 by Rene-Guy Cadou”

  1. Wonderful translation of a wonderful poem, Dick. Never read it before – truly moving. Some difficulty around “Au bord des mains qu’elle a laissées”? Not sure how I would have translated that. Yours works well. But “au bord’… (on the edge)…and the hands she left behind. Could he mean their own hands, father and son?

  2. Many thanks, Natalie. You’ve picked the one line that I have a sense of having fudged! Initially, I toyed with the notion of her having slipped beyond their grasp, which I think still has the substance. But my attempts to render that stretched the elastic that links the original text & its translation to breaking! My failure, of course. So for now I’ll have to go with Paul Valéry’s dictum that a poem is never finished, it’s only abandoned in the hope that the truer rendition will come floating up to the surface at some point!

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