I've been living with this poem for a while, trying to get a handle on it through translation. It's so funny, you see pictures of Hébert, and she's always smiling--looks like she was a cute little thing. But man oh man, she wrote some weird, funky stuff. I tried to read her novel Les fous de bassin but I couldn't finish it. I like her poetry though. Dark and strange, but some amazing imagery.
The Tomb of the Kings
-Anne Hébert (Translated by yours truly)
My heart is at my hand.
Like a blind falcon.
The taciturn bird grips my fingers,
Lamp swollen with wine and blood,
Toward the tomb of the kings,
Only just born.
What thread of Ariadne leads me
Through soundless labyrinths?
Each step’s echo consumed as it sounds.
(In what dream
Was this child tied by the ankle
Like a spellbound slave?)
The dream maker
Grasps the thread,
And bare footsteps come
One by one
Like the first raindrops
At the well bottom.
Already, the smell moves in swollen storms
Oozes under doorsteps
To secret, round chambers
Where box beds lie.
Drawn by the reclining figures’ immobile desire,
I look with astonishment
Set into the black bones
Gleam encrusted blue stones.
A few tragedies patiently worked
Upon the breasts of the recumbent kings
In the form of jewels
Are offered to me
With neither tears nor regrets.
Arranged in a line:
Smoke of incense, rice cake
And my trembling flesh:
Ritual, submissive offering.
The gold mask on my absent face
violets for pupils
Love’s shadow disguises me with meticulous strokes
And this bird I have
And laments strangely
A long shiver,
Like a wind that catches from tree to tree,
Stirs seven great ebony pharaohs,
In their solemn, ornate sheaths.
What remains is merely the depths of death,
Simulating the last torment
Seeking its appeasement
In a light rattling of bracelets
Vain circles playthings of another place
Around the sacrificed flesh.
Eager for the brotherly source of evil within me
they lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I know the vise of bones
and the dry hand that seeks to rend the heart.
Pale and filled with the awful dream
And the dead gone from me, murdered,
What reflection of dawn strays here?
So whence comes this bird, who trembles
And turns towards morning
Its sightless eyes?