Three Poems
by CLAUDE de BURINE
translated by LIZ CHANG
I.
Sous la lumière bleue

Sous la lumière bleue de l’enfance,
Là où le parquet ciré
Sent le miel et le bleuet
Où l’oeillet blanc garde son goût
De vanille et de poivre,
Tu avais la voix
Qui lançait les trains, les navires,
Faisait glisser la barque,
Les péniches au ventre noir
Comme l’exil,
Filer les canards gris
Quand les roseaux étaient des couteaux de nacre
Entre les mains du gel.
Quand venait la nuit
Ta voix allumait les feux des bateaux
Qui vont vers les îles
Et tu partais,
Me laissais les yeux vides de l’absence.


Under the Blue Light

Under the blue light of childhood,
there where the waxed floor
smells of honey and cornflower
where the white carnation retains its taste
of vanilla and pepper,
your voice could
launch trains, ships,
make boats glide from their slips—
the barges with their black bellies
like exile—
release grey ducks
when the reeds were pearly knives
in the hands of frost.
When night came
your voice stoked the fires of the boats
that go toward the islands
and you left,
leaving me behind, the empty eyes of absence.






II.
La Cour

La cour de l’école est déserte, le cerisier noir.
Les cahiers sont rangés.
On a tué le dernier oiseau.
Dans l’île, la barque est tirée,
La musique éteinte.
Je t’attendais. Je mangeais tes pas.
J’étais l’attente. J’étais tes pas. J’étais la faim.
Tu ne passeras plus.
Je n’attendrais pas. J’attendrai.
Je serai la faim qui brûle.


The Schoolyard

The schoolyard is deserted, the black cherry tree.
The books are all put away.
Someone has killed the last bird.
On the island, a boat is drawn up,
The music turned off.
I waited for you. I ate your path.
I became waiting. I was your path. I was hunger.
You will not come this way again.
I would not wait for you. I will wait.
I will be the hunger that burns.






III.
Il est tard

Il est tard.
Le froid vient vite.
Les chemins se creusent.
L’Automne n’a pas donné d’ordres
Mais la lumière baisse.
L’étain va reprendre ses pensées.
Le cuivre, ses voyages au long cours.
Le marron sa destinée d’oursin des campagnes.
Les meubles attendent.
Les fenêtres, les portes, se méfient, se ferment.
Comment te rejoindre
S’il n’y a pas les roses,
Les routes pour aller pieds nus?
Te parler
Près d’un canal qui gèlera bientôt?
Sous la clarté brune des bistrots à Paris
Où la bière est capitaine du navire?
Nous avions les feuilles, avant,
Les fleurs, les silences.
Mais la main ne s’est pas tendue
Et tout s’éteint
Comme un bracelet d’or
Trouvé dans les parcs
Le veilleur de nuit
Commence ses rondes.


It is Late

It is late.
Cold comes quickly.
The paths fold in on themselves.
Autumn hasn’t given the order yet
but the light fades.
Pewter will take back its thoughts.
Copper, its long travels.
The chestnut, its destiny as a displaced, spiny urchin.
The furniture waits.
The windows, the doors, close themselves, wary.
How to find you again
if there aren’t any roses,
any roads to follow, barefoot?
To speak to you
by a canal that will be icy soon?
Under the brown light of Parisian bistros
where beer is captain of the ship?
We had the leaves, before,
the flowers, the silences.
But your hand is not offered
and the light goes out of everything
like a gold bracelet
found in the park.
The night-watchman
begins his rounds.
LIZ CHANG translates French and Spanish and writes poetry. Her original work has recently been published in Philadelphia Stories and Breakwater Review, among others. She teaches college-level English at Delaware County Community College and lives outside of Philadelphia.
CLAUDE DE BURINE was born in 1931 in the Nièvre region of France. She is generally associated with the French Surrealist school, including Paul Eluard. She once wrote of her vocation: "Poetry is a state... a sort of vagabondage. When I was three, one night, I went out by myself. I wanted to try to bring back the moonlight in my parents' champagne bucket. Poetry is this..." The poems "Under the Blue Light," "It is Late" and "The Schoolyard" were published in her twelfth collection (La Bartavelle, 1993) called The Passenger. The poet died in Paris in 2005.