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This article is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

from Haunted House translated by John Ashbery Pierre Reverdy

If a mysterious messenger came to tell you, as you were emerging from sleep, at the moment you are slowly traversing that isthmus of torpor that links the syncope of thought to the lucid vibrations of the evening before: 'Don't you want to stay?', wouldn't you experience the long-premeditated impulse to abruptly turn back? Like an expert diver who gently slips into the depths that hide buried treasures, pulling the liquid sheets up to his chin, wouldn't you go back to retrieve the featureless happiness at the bottom of the empty and unlit tabernacle? But if a nightmare grinds down the verdant moss of the reefs behind your eyelids, if broken lances stain with blood the grooves of your forehead, when the corners of the salty lips of earth tremble at their juncture with the continents, what slackening breaks the ice that imprisons your hands, the tender hearts of nocturnal lettuce beneath the skidding of steady animals, as dawn the laundress straightens the mortal folds of your frozen curtains?

Outside, due to the market-garden hour, subversive songs are muffled under felt soles, guided through deserted streets between manifestations of bifurcated patriotism that causes the public wash-houses to be hung with bunting. Numbers roll under windows overflowing with work when the sun jams its rays into the lock.

It's the waking up of eyelashes, of bayonets twisted in brawls, of knives stabbed into the panels of doors, and the ripping up of the asphalt linings between ...


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