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Let This World Endure


I right a broken branch.
The leaves are heavy
With water and shadow
Like this sky now, before

The dawn of day. O earth,
Clashing signs, scattered paths,
But beauty, beauty absolute,
The beauty of a river:

Let this world endure,
In spite of death.
The gray olive
Clings to the branch.


Let this world endure,
Let the perfect leaf
Halo forever
The ripening fruit.

Let the hoopoes, when the sky
Opens at dawn,
Fly forever from under the roof
Of the empty barn,

Then alight over there
In legend;
And all is motionless
An hour more.


Let this world endure,
Let absence and word
Fuse forever
In simple things.

Let word be to absence
As color is to shadow,
Gold of ripe fruit
To gold of dry leaves:

Not parting until death,
Like a snowflake on a hand —
The water vanishes,
So does the gleam.


Let so pure a presence
Never cease
Like sky that fades
From water as it dries.

Let this world remain
As it is tonight:
Let others, beyond ourselves,
Partake of the endless fruit.

Let this world endure,
Let the shining dust of summer eve
Forever enter
The empty room,

And the water of an hour's rain
Stream forever
In the light
Along the path.


Let this world endure,
And words not be one day
These graying bones
That birds will peck,

Screeching, squabbling,
Wheeling apart,
Birds that are our night
Within the light.

Let this world endure
Just as time stands still
While we clean the cut
Of a weeping child.

And then returning
To the darkened room,
We see he sleeps in peace:
Night that is light.


Drink, she said,
Bending over him,
As he wept full of trust
After his fall.

Drink, and let your hand
Open my red dress,
Your mouth consent
To its good fever.

The hurt that burned you
Has almost drained away.
Drink of this water, which is
The mind that dreams.


Earth, who came to us
Eyes closed
As though to ask
For a guiding hand.

She would say: Let our voices,
Drawn to the nothing
In each other, be
All that we need.

Let our bodies try
To ford a wider time,
Our hands not know
The other shore.

Upstream, let the child be born
From nothing, and pass
Downstream in nothing
From boat to boat.


And again: summer will last
No more than an hour.
But let our hour be
Vast as the river.

Forgetfulness has power
And death does its work
Only in desire,
Not in time.

See, my breast is naked
In the light, whose somber
Paintings, undeciphered,
Quickly flicker by.

                                         (The poem in the orginal French . . .)

Yves Bonnefoy
Translated by Hoyt Rogers
The Curved Planks
A Bilingual Edition
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2001 by Mercure de France
Translation copyright © 2006 by Hoyt Rogers
All rights reserved.
Originally published in 2001 by Mercure de France,
Paris, France, as Les planches courbes
Published in the United States by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
First American edition, 2006
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.

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