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
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
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
As much as the solemn organ or the electronic machine,
As much as the equatorial storm or the Pacific tides,
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
translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker.