Long Poem Translation of Marilyne Bertoncini

By and | 1 February 2020


for my mother
be aware that comings and goings
are like dreams,
like reflections of the moon on water.

–Yogi Milarépa

I can’t remember the future,
She says

The sea is breathing
is slow fickle
expires and licks the shore
where the tide has imprinted
a damp trammel
There I place a net full of shrimps—
grey and vitreous like the sand
they wriggle between mesh and fold
caught in the tight crescent of weave
and slip out through my little hands

the sand sucks in my ankle
sucks in my memory
my footprint fills up with the sparkle of a tiny
and the next wave drowns it and laps away
discarded seaweed
translucent squid
and cloudy jelly fish

Each wave strains to heave
a sheet hauls away
the weft of words
wipes it clean of all but one trace
sand memory

squeak slip silk
its torn scream
soft whispers as
a bird’s footsteps
the lace of empty shells
on the shore the sand hemmed in with time

heavy drape of dunes and tide swipe
fold upon fold where the wind of memory

Draped in dune folds
She rises underneath all


and the dune outlines the reflection of the moon
in its waning crescent

Sands hostage speckled light
seeps from white gold dunes against cloudy waters
as if from a pupil open onto the void

eraseable one
whose trace
in the wind whipped squall
on the hillside

gold gossamer quivering under deep sea
as do her dancing feet in the rippling folds
the faille and satin
of a party gown

Fable of the Sand Woman
Ember Flame under my feet

phantom soul

wears out at a pure loss
the gold She spills
even as quivering murmur
hum and haw her words

O Danae body buried under the gold
of desire sand become

smooth and fluid mantel unstable
here penetrate her dissolve
flame palimpsest
of herself

in the eternal inchoate of shades that float by reflecting
the sea’s grey dunes and the sand’s waves

steps follow steps and do not end
no thread no trace

The dune mimics the ocean
the clouds outline landscapes in flight
whose reflection collapses in the roaming shadow
of a tale beyond words

and Sand woman swims upside down
in a sky of centaurs
her powdery gown ripples in the clouds

her mouth open in the sand
spits the ash of her words
flakes torn off silence
from the sea where
may be

then drowns and ebbs in mud rumours


Sand’s head barely touches the surface
the sand in her mouth smothers her like a gag

catches in her hair
net of enmeshed roots stretching out
braided with gillyflowers the colour of violets

entangle with oyat organ pipes
reverberate the colossal silence
of her cry

of her absence

She lies of all her length like the dune also
her feet touch the sea

and Sand’s hands take root
they extend under the sand
write of creeping bindweed
restharrow with its butterfly flowers

the mandala of hope
barbed wire path pointing to
the end of the labyrinth
of solitude and suffering

and Sand opens her flower-eyes
washed-out like a winter’s sky
dead and upside-down stars
beaten by sidereal wind

and Her mouth relentlessly attempts
the cry the airborne sand
keeps smothering

Erasure — sure out — out of the blue
Loose unmarked sands
and the woman with no face blood

salty shimmer of shoreline dunes
nues nudes denudate
reflection in the clouds that fray fall apart
unravel thin down

She wants to be born
be to be nothing more
but the ochre sand ogre devours her word

The breath of Woman
Eve without lips without a mouth
under the gag
hardly squeezes out tiny sniffles by my head
sizzling in the light of cistus and iodine

Coiled in the dunes’ hollow
nose on the damp sand just under
tufts of sedge
as if coiled in an armpit its mineral scent
intense and faded in memory
rough animal and scouring caress

I know that She is breathing
us sour laughing

I scurry down the side of Sand
and the dune collapses moved by its own dry foam

I scurry down from the dune’s bosom
and my hand grazed on its barbed wire crown

bleeds a rusty colour on the bright

I am Sand’s daughter
but the words
are mine

I cry
I write

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