Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jean-Paul de Dadelsen: "Exercise for the Evening"

Stop. Instead of panting and gasping from second to second
Like a torrent hurtling from rock to rock with no special merit,
More slowly, without moving, ankles crossed, hands clasped,
Observe, as if it were the whole world at once,
An object, slight and domestic, for example
This cup.

Ignore its curve, its undulating surface, this blue pattern.
Only consider the interior, this white cavity, this surface's
Water is only smooth like this on evenings of exceptional calm
After a day that gathers and holds back its joy
At the center of the silence where its breath

Can you cite a day, an hour, with no echo of yesterday,
No haste for tomorrow, when your soul was as
Smooth as this?

Don't listen to your heart, don't measure your pulse, don't envision
Time moving through you toward death, only
While holding your breath look at this pure and only quality
Of smoothness.

If you learned now to fix your gaze, your thought,
Your soul without blinking on a few square centimeters of
Perhaps, without leaving the world or the company of women,
With no change in your health, your country, your diet,
You might aspire one day to begin to understand
The whole world.

It's a cup of no value, bought at a dry-goods-and-grocery shop
In a Savoyard village near Boëge and Séchemouille.
It isn't smooth.
A microscope would reveal Himalayas of cracks.
What makes it smooth is the light, is your ingenuous fingers.
To a different gaze, perhaps, a cup is worth
A head.

As much as the solemn organ or the electronic machine,
As much as the equatorial storm or the Pacific tides,
This cup
Honors the Holy Name. If you were exiled tomorrow, you would not
Need, provided that you had looked at it long enough, provided
You were able to reconstruct this smoothness in your heart, to bring
This shard along.

Here is the entrance, not to wisdom, nor to silence,
Nor to perfect control of yourself and your shadow,
But to a first
Cavity smooth enough to hold a handful of peace.
Now you can sleep, your feet together so as not to cut
The current, hands clasped, now you can

Slowly, calmly, a little higher than your body, recumbent
And loosed, as if you inhabited only your head
Or your nostrils
Or the immediate vicinity of the pineal gland;
Now, above your pacified body, above
Your box of balderdash, in the smooth fluid of your outstretched body,
       you can
Keep watch.

"Exercise for the Evening" by Jean-Paul de Dadelsen, translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker. Published in A Public Space, Issue 20, 2013.

The French text is available here.

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer (originally color).

1 comment :

  1. I love the phrase "this box of balderdash" coming so unexpectedly at the end of the rest of these images of centered mindfulness.


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