Articles

Kit Schluter

Two Poems from Childhood

[ I lean with my elbows on the table . . .  ]

Je m’accoude à la table, la lampe éclaire très vivement ces journaux que je suis idiot de relire, ces livres sans intérêt.
I lean with my elbows on the table, the lamp brilliantly illuminating these journals I’m foolish to reread, these uninteresting books.

I lean with my elbows on the table, to look up the verb s’accouder in a dictionary, to make sure I have the meaning right. This is the posture I take now to read or write.

If my left hand is on my forehead (my thumb on my left temple, my other fingers forming a brim across my brow), I am tired or frustrated, or have been sitting too long.

If my chest is leaning forward against the table (my left elbow off to the left, my left hand flat on the table, thumb hanging slightly off the edge), I am attentive, and my attention lively.

Thankfully, the light this morning is diffuse and glancing, not saturated or direct; my shadow falls across the pages as I lean forward, from the faint light coming in through the window over my right shoulder.

Thankfully, again, this morning is not one of those nights during which I pore over old journals, thinking how the writing has served nothing but personal growth, doing nothing more than the work a shrink would have, had I had one to pay: nothing of “literary worth” (such an abusive phrase).

Nor is it a morning during which I sit at my desk, rereading those old books, thinking, what a shame that no one will ever read these words until I’m dead—and who, even then?

No, this is a morning on which to compose.

Nothing is certain yet, no judgments have been passed, but I know the night will come when I lean, tired, with my elbows on the table, and read back over these very pencil marks under too-lively light, and think of them as acts I would have been better off never revisiting.

*      *      *

In the Tours postcard . . . ]

Je suis le savant au fauteuil sombre. Les branches et la pluie se jettent à croisée de la bibliothèque.
I am the learned man in the armchair. The branches and the rain hurl themselves at the window of the library.

In the Tours postcard, there is a patch from where it seems no light made it from the world of objects to the lens:

A black hole, a sucking blotch of such unusual shape I know it couldn’t actually be an object in space, some architectural anomaly, but a mistake on the surface of the photograph, a dead spot in the film.

Curious. I flip the postcard over, to see what the blemish might cover up. (The smudge, in the center of the picture, concealing the postcard’s landmark.) There it is, in the top left corner of the verso: La bibliothèque municipale sur la Loire, Tours, France, 1951. I turn the card back over, to have another look at the image.

I see a boulevard at the bottom of the photograph, an open square on the left, its fountain, the bushy trees cropped along the retaining wall by the quai on the Loire, and at the foot of the blur, black and white striations that indicate a stairway fading upward into the black, indistinct shape.

On the second step, I can barely make out two pairs of shoes, but there they are, and on the sidewalk a whole crowd of feet, the legs of which are effaced as they extend up into the erasure.

I flip it over again, to read what is written on the back (pardon my clumsy translation):

A work is only as good as the covering-up of its tracks,

the tucking of the love letter between the cushions of the armchair when the other lover walks in from the storm,

the opacity of the library’s blotting out [biffure].

 

KIT SCHLUTER is a writer and translator living in Providence, RI. More on his work can be found at http://kitschluter.com.