The Library of Congress

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Poem Number 11

This poem is spoken by an
epitaph -- words on a tombstone.

Passer-by, these are words...

Yves Bonnefoy

Passer-by, these are words. But instead of reading
         I want you to listen: to this frail
      Voice like that of letters eaten by grass.

Lend an ear, hear first of all the happy bee
Foraging in our almost rubbed-out names.
      It flits between two sprays of leaves,
Carrying the sound of branches that are real
      To those that filigree the still unseen.

Then know an even fainter sound, and let it be
      The endless murmuring of all our shades.
Their whisper rises from beneath the stones
      To fuse into a single heat with that blind
      Light you are as yet, who can still gaze.

        May your listening be good! Silence
Is a threshold where a twig breaks in your hand,
      Imperceptibly, as you attempt to disengage
                 A name upon a stone:

And so our absent names untangle your alarms.
         And for you who move away, pensively,
      Here becomes there without ceasing to be.


from The Partisan Review
Volume LXVII, Number 2, Spring 2001
Translated from the French by Hoyt Rogers

Copyright 2001 by Partisan Review Inc.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission (click for permissions information).