Without

Stéphane Bouquet
Translated by Lindsay Turner

We must always alight on the livingness of things. At

breakfast, someone:

“the winters are warming so the electrical companies

make less

profit.” Or else they’re going to destroy an

unprofitable hospital

and its precious art brut frescoes. “Oh no!” says

common indignation, but yes,

though if I watch mostly the splendor of moats beneath

the oblique and hesitating

light of morning, perhaps the sky has Sunday

as its only actual project, before there were

dozens of ducks, where are they, the tearful

owner’s sigh, what’s left

is the noisy profusion of insects trees and their foliage

feeble respite even

if I wanted to say it’s fully snowing today, I

mean that

quasi-pharmaceutical protective powder

naturally preventing

fear. It is not however going to snow at all but there are

lots of soldiers

in the streets these days, a sort of consolation prize

like living

in an unhurtable bulletproof vest. In the end poet =

the indefatigable maker

of shield-sentences behind which to hide to

re-calm gently,

the calm of safe and sound. What is it to live? This time

etymology

isn’t going to be much help. In Indo-European to live

already meant, it seems, to live

and nothing else. Back to the beginning. Perhaps it’s

enough to accumulate a bunch of gestures

and see what the meaning is at the end. Or not meaning:

“apricot trees exist,

apricot trees exist” (Inger Christensen) and there isn’t any

useful meaning. One day

the jellyfish in turn found that their form

fit the circumstances

and stayed in it. That’s what matters: to sink into the ideal

or provisionally ideal

form. Of course these days

the Marie Antoinettes

of the financial aristocracy

stuff themselves with gluten-free

brioche: “oh little spelt,” she purrs, swooning on her silken divan,

body chiseled

to a monied svelte. In the end it is perhaps better

that the world just melts

as fast as possible. There’ll be a new flood—I apologize

to all the sacrificed

species, polar bear and monk seal, I

am sorry—then a neo-Greek

will come to explain the two fundamental reasons

for being, ousia as

the ancient Aristotle said, matter without actual project but

full of desire

the foremost being, I need badly to caress you.

Everything happens in Syntagma Square,

the great hopefulness of assembled

sentences.

—Come, he says, we must learn to add up in this

bereft world,

imagine the inauguration of the without republic: without the

lazy possibility

of landscapes, I mean where to laze and lounge,

the banks

abruptly shut by unilateral decree as if the

reserves of saliva were

exhausted or uncertain, without a certain number

of promises

nevertheless marvelously to be kept, without the light

of evening when the sun

wastes us

generously, at our backs, without a single name to call,

without general strike

or the consolation of back alleys where the stray cats

wander

without the list of all the rest which I cut short and which was truly

also possible.

Stéphane Bouquet is the author of Common Life, forthcoming in February 2023 from Nightboat Books; it is his second book to be translated into English. A poet, screenwriter, choreographer, and film critic, Bouquet is also the recipient of a 2003 Prix de Rome and a 2007 Mission Stendhal Award. He lives in Paris.
Originally published:
January 25, 2023

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