Carolyn Forché

For Daniel

In a café near the entrance to the catacombs

you wrote your English versions of poems

composed in the voice of a thrush in a cage:

winter trees, plane trees, iron benches, bocci in snow.

This is where I found you most afternoons:

cigarette lit, stack of books, folded-up Le Monde,

writing into the past with your oldest pen,

unraveling your script then rolling it up again,

music turned back into ink on paper,

a symphony floating on the table face-down.

I was a young mother pushing a carriage then,

the little one trying to free himself (as he now has done),

while behind the glass door of an armoire

armies of paper soldiers fought themselves,

bells ringing like stones through the clouds,

an army of graves upright. How to be still

as you were, to keep quiet as one language enters another?

Leaving everything all usual worlds behind.

Because fog is not the same as violin! Fog is flute.

And opera in time of war is still sung to the applause of silence.

You wrote like a mole in its tunnel dreaming of stars.

Carolyn Forché is a poet, memoirist, translator, anthologist, and professor at Georgetown University. Her books include In the Lateness of the World, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and winner of the American Book Award, and the memoir What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance, finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction and winner of the Juan E. Mendez Book Award.
Originally published:
December 6, 2022


Louise Glück’s Late Style

The fabular turn in the poet’s last three books
Teju Cole

The Critic as Friend

The challenge of reading generously
Merve Emre

Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre

You Might Also Like

The Rest of the Story

Remembering childhood
Carolyn Forché

What You Have Heard Is True

Remembering the fight for Salvadoran freedom
Carolyn Forché


Lorna Goodison


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.