Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Stefan Hertmans

THREE APPLES AND A MOUNTAIN

                                      Le principal dans un tableau
                                                       c’est la distance.

                                                       Paul Cézanne



1

Three apples and a mountain –
enough to sit still for years
and seek out that one correct look.
The moon is full above the Sainte-Victoire,
at night too it is still
a glowing mass of rock, scorched and
burning on the southern flank.

He wrote to a friend, after the last
of about fifty attempts: I am
too old and too ill, I cannot do this.
To Ambroise Vollard:
I have made a little progress.
Why so late and so difficult ?

The painter is a walker.
A hot road lies rolled up in his eyes
and sleeps there like a snake.

Midday heat, evening of a life.
Blinded by a surfeit of light.

In Aix the Cours Mirabeau lay in shade,
once, under the great plane trees
the enlightened little despot had
reached for ripe fruit – then still quite round
and unaware of any mischief.

Coolness in the courthouse and in the old offices.
The painter’s footstep was preserved.
Further on the studio lies concealed
in a garden overgrown by staring eyes.

But only against that high wall
of distant opacity
did things take shape and grey
became the colour of colours.

A cross stands inaccessible in
an air of melting lead.
You have to climb a mountain
with nothing other than your eyes
and the path is full of little ugliness.

Bellevue, Beauregard, Vauvenargues.
A mill and a village asleep.
A wash-place since the time
of the Romans.


2

Brushes keep still in a hot silence,
even if the colours cry out in the sun.
He knew what distance was.
Stepped into bodies, apples
the better to hear what the mountain said.
It lies there scorching in facets,
does not reveal itself to the visitor
and whispers with the black owls
in your ears at night.
You can sit out your life there,
since children everywhere grow up themselves,
water always flows towards a source.

But all those forms thought to pieces
in his head: how did he put them
together so cleverly that in a dream I
recognize them as something once mine
and yours, everyone’s who knows
what the warmth, the silence is
of a timeless afternoon in the south ?

He squashes insects to death on the terrace,
drinks not too much absinthe and
talks silently with the water.
He lets the evening sink into itself.


3

A village sometimes has many voices;
the paper is only just beginning to
be silent in his hand.
Mountain, how can I conquer you like
the apples and onions on the window sill?
How can I taste you, who
thrust me from your face once again,
back into my own eyes,
which I believe more and more?

Rilke walked round in the summers
of this landscape, but first
saw at the autumn show
where the roads were going.

Never has a painter shown
like this that colours want
to do the work themselves, that you
have to set them free. Because one day
they will understand each other.


That was nineteen seven.
The mountain lay glowing in its stony face,
wound its way into the world,
into his eyes, into an alien consciousness.


4

The traveller who wishes to see the philosopher’s stone
now, exactly like brushes saw it then,
will not always end up in
villages of yesteryear.

A concrete estate is called Les Lauves
where he once stood looking at the grass:
the way back-light sears the membrane of the eye.

Somewhere in a backstreet, between two blocks,
the view is suddenly perfect,
if you live on the second floor.

Those possessing this view include
a gas fitter, a judge and
an old maid – who, in silence,
lets me in. A blue cuckoo ticks
against concrete and ply.

The time is in keeping: a little sad for
what has just passed and scattered
like sand against the open view.
She has a table with a still-life
and dried fennel.

At her window clings an impenetrable
painting, le support suprême, that
ceaselessly changes appearance
in the light of what goes by.

She lets me out and mumbles.
You walk through heavy traffic
back to the quiet studio.

A little rearrangement
of his bookshelf yields
among others, the following:

Journal des demoiselles,
volumes forty-one to
forty-four; Plutarch and Virgil;
the Magasin Pittoresque,
Beauté du spectacle de la nature,

Hyppolite Taine’s Voyage en Italie,
and then a spine printed with gold:
Avant d’entrer dans le monde.

An entry that was outside, in the main –
Les Grandes Baigneuses, for example:
before they went naked into the world,
they required a hole in the wall, metres high
to disappear out the north side.

He also left the house and garden for what
they were and went back to Paris.

But here in Loubassane, Bibémus,
Beaureceuil and Jas de Bouffan
children throw stones through
the large windows of the day.


5

The foot of the mountain was later occupied
by a torero with a palette.
He took up residence in the castle
at Vauvenargues, swore that he
could buy that dream with his paint.
He became old and crabby there,
profusely creative, fought with
the devil of the old masters
and in the end brought no one to their knees
except his burning self.

He was not a drifter like that other,
did not speak to adders and pines,
simple tables or a cloth covered in dust;
forgot to look and to be silent,
and only poured his fury onto
the smallest surfaces of
this sleeping cosmic village
that bordered on the blue,
that glowing mass of stone,
those twelve Carpaccio trees
around the house.

I drink here till late in the night.
Crickets land on the table top,
they look something like a cross
between dragon flies and centaurs.
The bull sleeps in his grave.

And under Orion walks the master of Aix,
he who could look things to pieces
and later put them together again:

time on a palette full of crusted paint,
the conqueror of a mountain
that bent to no one’s wishes,
did not move, only waited
for that hand.


6

I cannot rid myself of this double image
tonight: up there luminous stone
drops down behind
a high tombstone, like a silent
witness to the sleep that pours
time into people’s heads.

While my beloved, sleeping
discerns herself in her own form,
two rooms in the castle light up
making bloodhounds wake.
The little sign by the gate
expresses hate: go away,
don’t be insistent,
le musée est à Paris,
we don’t want any witnesses.

The old master snores next to me
on a bench. He has two brown
patches on two fine hands.

Only now, the very last cricket silent,
I hear how his brushes whisper,
excitedly, confused, afraid of what
will happen tomorrow if that whole
glorious mass proves not to have cooled.

The stone is almost finished, after several million years.
The paint is drying. A black owl floats over the crest.
First light is already rising over the high ridge.
Wind is cooling the colours of the night.

You stroke the woman sleeping next to the painter
as if you were sleeping with her for the first time.
We shall never wake again
if the mountain does not sleep.


7

Then the man, roaming about in such a ravage, faltering and
sometimes dizzily groping about, realised that since the fire on the
Sainte-Victoire he had lost a way.

                         Peter Handke

Drie appels en een berg

Drie appels en een berg

                           Le principal dans un tableau
                                          c’est la distance.

                                          Paul Cézanne



1

Drie appels en een berg –
genoeg om jaren stil te zitten
en te zoeken naar die ene juiste blik.
De maan is vol boven de Sainte-Victoire,
ook in de nacht nog een
gloeiende rotsmassa, verschroeid en
brandend op de zuidflank.

Aan een vriend schreef hij, na de laatste
van zowat vijftig pogingen: Ik ben
te oud en te ziek om dit te kunnen.
Aan Ambroise Vollard:
Ik heb een beetje vooruitgang geboekt.
Waarom zo laat en zo moeilijk?

De schilder is een wandelaar.
Een hete weg ligt in zijn ogen opgerold
en slaapt er als een slang.

Middaghitte, avond van een leven.
Verblinding door te veel aan licht.

In Aix lag schaduw op de Cours Mirabeau,
onder de grote platanen had ooit
het verlichte despootje naar
vers fruit gegrepen – toen nog zeer rond
en zich van geen kwaad bewust.

Koelte in gerechtshof en oude lokalen.
De voetstap van de schilder werd bewaard.
Het atelier ligt verderop verborgen
in een dichtgekeken tuin.

Maar pas tegen die hoge muur
van verre ondoorzichtigheid
kregen de dingen vorm en werd
het grijs de kleur der kleuren.

Een kruis staat ongenaakbaar in
een lucht van smeltend lood.
Je moet een berg beklimmen
met niets anders dan je ogen
en de weg is vol onooglijkheid.

Bellevue, Beauregard, Vauvenargues.
Een molen en een slapend dorp.
Een waspIaats uit de tijd
van de Romeinen.


2

Penselen zwijgen in een hete stilte,
zelfs als de kleuren schreeuwen in de zon.
Hij wist wat afstand was.
Ging in lichamen, appels binnen
om beter te horen wat die berg hem zei.
Hij ligt er blakend in facetten bij,
onthult zich niet voor de bezoeker
en fluistert met de zwarte uilen
in je oren ’s nachts.
Je kunt er zittend leven,
kinderen groeien overal vanzelf wel op,
water vloeit altijd naar een bron.

Maar al die stukgedachte vormen
in zijn hoofd: hoe bracht hij ze zo
handig samen dat ik ze in een droom
herken als iets wat ooit van mij was
en van jou, van iedereen die weet
wat warmte, stilte van een tijdeloze
middag in het zuiden is?

Hij knijpt insekten dood op het terras,
drinkt niet te veel absint en
praat in stilte met het water.
Hij laat de avond in zichzelf verzinken.


3

Een dorp heeft soms veel stemmen;
het blad begint nog maar te
zwijgen in zijn hand.
Berg, hoe kan ik je overwinnen als
de appels en ajuinen bij het raam?
Hoe van je eten, die me
weer van je wanden stoot,
terug mijn eigen ogen in,
die ik steeds meer geloof?

Rilke liep in de zomers van
dit landschap rond, maar zag
eerst op de herfstsalon
waarheen de wegen liepen.

Nooit heeft een schilder zo
getoond dat kleuren het werk
zelf willen doen, dat je ze
vrij moet laten. Want ooit
begrijpen ze elkaar.


Dat was negentien zeven.
De berg lag gloeiend in zijn stenen wand,
schroefde zichzelf de wereld in,
zijn ogen in, een vreemd bewustzijn in.


4

Wie nu de steen der wijzen nog
precies wil zien zoals penselen toen,
komt niet altijd in dorpen van
weleer terecht.

Les Lauves heet een woonwijk van beton
waar hij toen stond te kijken in het gras:
hoe tegenlicht zich in het oogvlies schroeit.

Ergens achter in een straat, tussen twee blokken,
is plotseling het uitzicht optimaal,
als je op de tweede etage woont.

De bezitters van die blik zijn onder meer
een gasfitter, een rechter en
een oude juffrouw – die me zwijgend
binnenlaat. Een blauwe koekoek tikt
tegen beton en plaat.

Het uur is navenant: wat treurig om
wat net voorbijging en tegen
het vergezicht als zand verstoof.
Ze heeft een tafel met stilleven
en gedroogde venkel.

Aan haar raam kleeft een onpeilbaar
schilderij, support suprême, dat
onophoudelijk gedaanten wisselt
in het licht van wat verglijdt.

Ze laat me uit en mompelt.
Je loopt door druk verkeer
terug naar het stil atelier.

Een kleine wedersamenstelling
van zijn boekenplank levert
onder meer het volgende op:

Journal des demoiselles,
jaargangen eenenveertig tot en met
vierenveertig; Plutarchus en Vergilius;
de Magasin Pittoresque,
Beauté du spectacle de la nature
,
Hyppolite Taines Voyage en Italie,
en dan een bandje met de goudopdruk:
Avant d’entrer dans le monde.

Een binnengaan dat buiten was, vooral –
de Grote baadsters bijvoorbeeld:
voor ze bloot de wereld binnen gingen
eisten ze een metershoog gat in de muur
om langs de noordkant te verdwijnen.

Ook hij liet huis en tuin voor wat
ze waren en keerde naar Parijs terug.

Maar hier in Loubassane, Bibémus,
Beaureceuil en Jas de Bouffan
gooien kinderen steentjes door
de grote ruiten van de dag.


5

Later werd de voet van de berg bezet
door een torero met palet.
Hij nam zijn intrek in het slot
van Vauvenargues, vloekte dat hij
die droom kon kopen met zijn verf.
Hij werd er zuur en ouder,
overvloedig creatief, vocht met
de duivel van de oude meesters
en kreeg ten slotte niemand anders klein
dan zijn verbrandend ik.

Hij was geen zwerver als die ander,
sprak niet met adders en sparren,
eenvoudige tafels of een doek vol stof;
vergat te kijken en te zwijgen,
en goot zijn razernij slechts op
de kleinste oppervlakken van
dit slapend kosmisch dorp
dat aan de blauwte grenst,
die gloeiende massa steen,
die twaalf Carpaccio-bomen
rond het huis.

Ik drink hier tot laat in de nacht.
Er komen krekels op het tafelblad,
die iets weg hebben van een kruising
tussen libellen en centauren.
De stier slaapt in zijn graf.

En onder Orion wandelt de meester van Aix,
hij die de dingen stuk kon kijken
en ze daarna weer samenbracht:

de tijd op een palet vol aangekorste verf,
de overwinnaar van een berg
die zich naar niemands wensen plooide,
niet bewoog, alleen maar wachtte
op die hand.


6

Van dit dubbelbeeld raak ik
niet af vannacht: daarboven zakt
lichtgevend steen achter
een hoge zerk, als een stille
getuige van de slaap, die tijd
in hoofden van de mensen giet.

Terwijl mijn lief zich slapend
in haar eigen vorm herkent,
lichten twee kamers in het slot
waarbij bloedhonden waken.
Er spreekt haat uit het plaatje
bij het hek: ga weg,
dring maar niet aan,
le musée est à Paris,
we willen geen getuigen.

De oude meester snurkt naast me
op een bank. Hij heeft twee bruine
vlekken op twee mooie handen.

Nu pas, als ook de laatste krekel zwijgt,
hoor ik hoe zijn penselen fluisteren,
opgewonden, in de war, bang voor wat
morgen komen moet als heel die
glorieuze massa niet blijkt afgekoeld.

De steen is bijna af, na enkele miljoenen jaren.
De verf droogt. Een zwarte uil zweeft boven de kam.
Het eerste licht komt al over de hoge rug.
Wind koelt de kleuren van de nacht.

Je streelt de vrouw die naast de schilder slaapt
als sliep je met haar voor de eerste keer.
Wij worden nooit meer wakker
als de berg niet slaapt.


7

Toen besefte de door een dergelijke ravage dolende, struikelende en
soms ook duizelig rondtollende man dat hij door de brand van de
Sainte-Victoire een weg had verloren.

                            Peter Handke
Close

THREE APPLES AND A MOUNTAIN

                                      Le principal dans un tableau
                                                       c’est la distance.

                                                       Paul Cézanne



1

Three apples and a mountain –
enough to sit still for years
and seek out that one correct look.
The moon is full above the Sainte-Victoire,
at night too it is still
a glowing mass of rock, scorched and
burning on the southern flank.

He wrote to a friend, after the last
of about fifty attempts: I am
too old and too ill, I cannot do this.
To Ambroise Vollard:
I have made a little progress.
Why so late and so difficult ?

The painter is a walker.
A hot road lies rolled up in his eyes
and sleeps there like a snake.

Midday heat, evening of a life.
Blinded by a surfeit of light.

In Aix the Cours Mirabeau lay in shade,
once, under the great plane trees
the enlightened little despot had
reached for ripe fruit – then still quite round
and unaware of any mischief.

Coolness in the courthouse and in the old offices.
The painter’s footstep was preserved.
Further on the studio lies concealed
in a garden overgrown by staring eyes.

But only against that high wall
of distant opacity
did things take shape and grey
became the colour of colours.

A cross stands inaccessible in
an air of melting lead.
You have to climb a mountain
with nothing other than your eyes
and the path is full of little ugliness.

Bellevue, Beauregard, Vauvenargues.
A mill and a village asleep.
A wash-place since the time
of the Romans.


2

Brushes keep still in a hot silence,
even if the colours cry out in the sun.
He knew what distance was.
Stepped into bodies, apples
the better to hear what the mountain said.
It lies there scorching in facets,
does not reveal itself to the visitor
and whispers with the black owls
in your ears at night.
You can sit out your life there,
since children everywhere grow up themselves,
water always flows towards a source.

But all those forms thought to pieces
in his head: how did he put them
together so cleverly that in a dream I
recognize them as something once mine
and yours, everyone’s who knows
what the warmth, the silence is
of a timeless afternoon in the south ?

He squashes insects to death on the terrace,
drinks not too much absinthe and
talks silently with the water.
He lets the evening sink into itself.


3

A village sometimes has many voices;
the paper is only just beginning to
be silent in his hand.
Mountain, how can I conquer you like
the apples and onions on the window sill?
How can I taste you, who
thrust me from your face once again,
back into my own eyes,
which I believe more and more?

Rilke walked round in the summers
of this landscape, but first
saw at the autumn show
where the roads were going.

Never has a painter shown
like this that colours want
to do the work themselves, that you
have to set them free. Because one day
they will understand each other.


That was nineteen seven.
The mountain lay glowing in its stony face,
wound its way into the world,
into his eyes, into an alien consciousness.


4

The traveller who wishes to see the philosopher’s stone
now, exactly like brushes saw it then,
will not always end up in
villages of yesteryear.

A concrete estate is called Les Lauves
where he once stood looking at the grass:
the way back-light sears the membrane of the eye.

Somewhere in a backstreet, between two blocks,
the view is suddenly perfect,
if you live on the second floor.

Those possessing this view include
a gas fitter, a judge and
an old maid – who, in silence,
lets me in. A blue cuckoo ticks
against concrete and ply.

The time is in keeping: a little sad for
what has just passed and scattered
like sand against the open view.
She has a table with a still-life
and dried fennel.

At her window clings an impenetrable
painting, le support suprême, that
ceaselessly changes appearance
in the light of what goes by.

She lets me out and mumbles.
You walk through heavy traffic
back to the quiet studio.

A little rearrangement
of his bookshelf yields
among others, the following:

Journal des demoiselles,
volumes forty-one to
forty-four; Plutarch and Virgil;
the Magasin Pittoresque,
Beauté du spectacle de la nature,

Hyppolite Taine’s Voyage en Italie,
and then a spine printed with gold:
Avant d’entrer dans le monde.

An entry that was outside, in the main –
Les Grandes Baigneuses, for example:
before they went naked into the world,
they required a hole in the wall, metres high
to disappear out the north side.

He also left the house and garden for what
they were and went back to Paris.

But here in Loubassane, Bibémus,
Beaureceuil and Jas de Bouffan
children throw stones through
the large windows of the day.


5

The foot of the mountain was later occupied
by a torero with a palette.
He took up residence in the castle
at Vauvenargues, swore that he
could buy that dream with his paint.
He became old and crabby there,
profusely creative, fought with
the devil of the old masters
and in the end brought no one to their knees
except his burning self.

He was not a drifter like that other,
did not speak to adders and pines,
simple tables or a cloth covered in dust;
forgot to look and to be silent,
and only poured his fury onto
the smallest surfaces of
this sleeping cosmic village
that bordered on the blue,
that glowing mass of stone,
those twelve Carpaccio trees
around the house.

I drink here till late in the night.
Crickets land on the table top,
they look something like a cross
between dragon flies and centaurs.
The bull sleeps in his grave.

And under Orion walks the master of Aix,
he who could look things to pieces
and later put them together again:

time on a palette full of crusted paint,
the conqueror of a mountain
that bent to no one’s wishes,
did not move, only waited
for that hand.


6

I cannot rid myself of this double image
tonight: up there luminous stone
drops down behind
a high tombstone, like a silent
witness to the sleep that pours
time into people’s heads.

While my beloved, sleeping
discerns herself in her own form,
two rooms in the castle light up
making bloodhounds wake.
The little sign by the gate
expresses hate: go away,
don’t be insistent,
le musée est à Paris,
we don’t want any witnesses.

The old master snores next to me
on a bench. He has two brown
patches on two fine hands.

Only now, the very last cricket silent,
I hear how his brushes whisper,
excitedly, confused, afraid of what
will happen tomorrow if that whole
glorious mass proves not to have cooled.

The stone is almost finished, after several million years.
The paint is drying. A black owl floats over the crest.
First light is already rising over the high ridge.
Wind is cooling the colours of the night.

You stroke the woman sleeping next to the painter
as if you were sleeping with her for the first time.
We shall never wake again
if the mountain does not sleep.


7

Then the man, roaming about in such a ravage, faltering and
sometimes dizzily groping about, realised that since the fire on the
Sainte-Victoire he had lost a way.

                         Peter Handke

THREE APPLES AND A MOUNTAIN

                                      Le principal dans un tableau
                                                       c’est la distance.

                                                       Paul Cézanne



1

Three apples and a mountain –
enough to sit still for years
and seek out that one correct look.
The moon is full above the Sainte-Victoire,
at night too it is still
a glowing mass of rock, scorched and
burning on the southern flank.

He wrote to a friend, after the last
of about fifty attempts: I am
too old and too ill, I cannot do this.
To Ambroise Vollard:
I have made a little progress.
Why so late and so difficult ?

The painter is a walker.
A hot road lies rolled up in his eyes
and sleeps there like a snake.

Midday heat, evening of a life.
Blinded by a surfeit of light.

In Aix the Cours Mirabeau lay in shade,
once, under the great plane trees
the enlightened little despot had
reached for ripe fruit – then still quite round
and unaware of any mischief.

Coolness in the courthouse and in the old offices.
The painter’s footstep was preserved.
Further on the studio lies concealed
in a garden overgrown by staring eyes.

But only against that high wall
of distant opacity
did things take shape and grey
became the colour of colours.

A cross stands inaccessible in
an air of melting lead.
You have to climb a mountain
with nothing other than your eyes
and the path is full of little ugliness.

Bellevue, Beauregard, Vauvenargues.
A mill and a village asleep.
A wash-place since the time
of the Romans.


2

Brushes keep still in a hot silence,
even if the colours cry out in the sun.
He knew what distance was.
Stepped into bodies, apples
the better to hear what the mountain said.
It lies there scorching in facets,
does not reveal itself to the visitor
and whispers with the black owls
in your ears at night.
You can sit out your life there,
since children everywhere grow up themselves,
water always flows towards a source.

But all those forms thought to pieces
in his head: how did he put them
together so cleverly that in a dream I
recognize them as something once mine
and yours, everyone’s who knows
what the warmth, the silence is
of a timeless afternoon in the south ?

He squashes insects to death on the terrace,
drinks not too much absinthe and
talks silently with the water.
He lets the evening sink into itself.


3

A village sometimes has many voices;
the paper is only just beginning to
be silent in his hand.
Mountain, how can I conquer you like
the apples and onions on the window sill?
How can I taste you, who
thrust me from your face once again,
back into my own eyes,
which I believe more and more?

Rilke walked round in the summers
of this landscape, but first
saw at the autumn show
where the roads were going.

Never has a painter shown
like this that colours want
to do the work themselves, that you
have to set them free. Because one day
they will understand each other.


That was nineteen seven.
The mountain lay glowing in its stony face,
wound its way into the world,
into his eyes, into an alien consciousness.


4

The traveller who wishes to see the philosopher’s stone
now, exactly like brushes saw it then,
will not always end up in
villages of yesteryear.

A concrete estate is called Les Lauves
where he once stood looking at the grass:
the way back-light sears the membrane of the eye.

Somewhere in a backstreet, between two blocks,
the view is suddenly perfect,
if you live on the second floor.

Those possessing this view include
a gas fitter, a judge and
an old maid – who, in silence,
lets me in. A blue cuckoo ticks
against concrete and ply.

The time is in keeping: a little sad for
what has just passed and scattered
like sand against the open view.
She has a table with a still-life
and dried fennel.

At her window clings an impenetrable
painting, le support suprême, that
ceaselessly changes appearance
in the light of what goes by.

She lets me out and mumbles.
You walk through heavy traffic
back to the quiet studio.

A little rearrangement
of his bookshelf yields
among others, the following:

Journal des demoiselles,
volumes forty-one to
forty-four; Plutarch and Virgil;
the Magasin Pittoresque,
Beauté du spectacle de la nature,

Hyppolite Taine’s Voyage en Italie,
and then a spine printed with gold:
Avant d’entrer dans le monde.

An entry that was outside, in the main –
Les Grandes Baigneuses, for example:
before they went naked into the world,
they required a hole in the wall, metres high
to disappear out the north side.

He also left the house and garden for what
they were and went back to Paris.

But here in Loubassane, Bibémus,
Beaureceuil and Jas de Bouffan
children throw stones through
the large windows of the day.


5

The foot of the mountain was later occupied
by a torero with a palette.
He took up residence in the castle
at Vauvenargues, swore that he
could buy that dream with his paint.
He became old and crabby there,
profusely creative, fought with
the devil of the old masters
and in the end brought no one to their knees
except his burning self.

He was not a drifter like that other,
did not speak to adders and pines,
simple tables or a cloth covered in dust;
forgot to look and to be silent,
and only poured his fury onto
the smallest surfaces of
this sleeping cosmic village
that bordered on the blue,
that glowing mass of stone,
those twelve Carpaccio trees
around the house.

I drink here till late in the night.
Crickets land on the table top,
they look something like a cross
between dragon flies and centaurs.
The bull sleeps in his grave.

And under Orion walks the master of Aix,
he who could look things to pieces
and later put them together again:

time on a palette full of crusted paint,
the conqueror of a mountain
that bent to no one’s wishes,
did not move, only waited
for that hand.


6

I cannot rid myself of this double image
tonight: up there luminous stone
drops down behind
a high tombstone, like a silent
witness to the sleep that pours
time into people’s heads.

While my beloved, sleeping
discerns herself in her own form,
two rooms in the castle light up
making bloodhounds wake.
The little sign by the gate
expresses hate: go away,
don’t be insistent,
le musée est à Paris,
we don’t want any witnesses.

The old master snores next to me
on a bench. He has two brown
patches on two fine hands.

Only now, the very last cricket silent,
I hear how his brushes whisper,
excitedly, confused, afraid of what
will happen tomorrow if that whole
glorious mass proves not to have cooled.

The stone is almost finished, after several million years.
The paint is drying. A black owl floats over the crest.
First light is already rising over the high ridge.
Wind is cooling the colours of the night.

You stroke the woman sleeping next to the painter
as if you were sleeping with her for the first time.
We shall never wake again
if the mountain does not sleep.


7

Then the man, roaming about in such a ravage, faltering and
sometimes dizzily groping about, realised that since the fire on the
Sainte-Victoire he had lost a way.

                         Peter Handke
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