Wednesday, March 18, 2015



At the edge of the table

the man who is toying with

the magnet and filings

no longer hears the ocean

beating the rocks.

From the ceiling

beans are hung to dry

the whitewashed walls

let insects come and go

people passing each other by

would like to get back

in the habit of loving.


In a shed in the old garden

the separation takes place

amid the rustling of leaves

you have to go far away

to another country

to recover this moment of farewell

leaning on the quiet tree

in the hour of lamplight

just as a child is sent

with no one to confide in

looking for milk in the night.


Clearly in this broad daylight you can see

the empty bowl on the table

the background dappled

with the play of shadows

among the passersby

one picks up a pin

under a sky that darkens

though no lights come on.

A lithe body

is filled with silence.

Images from memory

will return with evening.


Some farmers keep on

watching the clouds

looking for clues

some prefer

an easy eloquence

to silence

at the corner

made by a hedge

of many plants

the transparent evenings

wear thin with repetition

on a stage of trestles

someone is making a speech

to others seated at tables

in the open barn

on furrows that shine

to the very ends of the earth.


People are kept in suspense

by these commotions about a woman

who remains beautiful

as she bends her body

her hair sweeping the red ground

in the last light of festivities.

All those who watch

have memories

but they no longer see

night approaching.


It's not always easy

to face the animal

even if it looks at you

without fear or hate

it does so fixedly

and seems to disdain

the subtle secret it carries

it seems better to feel

the obviousness of the world

that noisily day and night

drills and damages

the silence of the soul.


translated by Heather McHugh

D'Après Tout
(Princeton 1981)

Jean Follain (29 August 1903 – 10 March 1971) was a French author, poet and corporate lawyer.  A car accident took his life.