I Introduce Myself to the World

In poetry, one only inhabits the place one is leaving.
-René Char


The following poem was composed during a stay in Tunisia, the country of my birth, in July, my birth month: "here" in the text refers to "there."


I introduce myself to the world
mixed with my own shadows
a cry is enough to greet the earth
the sky and my forthcoming face


here the sun is made of burning fire
I introduce myself to the world
which has always swayed
in the rhythm of nights and days


here pines plant their needles
in red clay
water is frugal here
I still don't know what the wind will bring


I introduce myself to the world
offer the sea my first look
a fish an open hand
protect the houses' dwellers


here the waves are messengers
of the horizon's purple ring
their letters of algae and foam
dance on the fringed shore


but the women of the coast
follow earthen roads
no one has ever wished
to tame the free horizon


I introduce myself to the world
burning above my shoulder
the new star the crescent moon
sirocco again tomorrow


a black curl clings to my forehead
I have my relatives' look
the grandmother recognized it
deep in her tall mirrors


she sits in reflected fire
draped in glimmering cloth
she has been convening her dead
since the site of her grave was lost


the diviners of oblivion
find no more sources here
whole gardens fade away
under the birds' silted tongue


the earth is heavy with humans
beings and things which bedeck it
are the works of here and that elsewhere
fixed in the stare of the dead


here earth and stone are remembrance
the saints rest in a half-light
propitious to magic spells
even miracles are discreet here


in this primordial place
bodies outdistance their shadows
back to what strange continents
do closed eyes' reveries send me


I introduce myself to the world
here one sets oneself free
by discovering the thread
in the pit of the labyrinth


all ages rule here at once
faces fit onto faces
and distance finishes
by confusing us with ourselves


time is a filled-in lagoon
a tongue of earth thrust from the water
a mythic eternal blue mountain
a pillar raised facing the bay


here centuries die and are reborn
to nourish human desires
they leave all the better to return
here the absent are never wrong


for you only leave under constraint
elsewhere is that mirror
where you beg for another image
a road that leads to your own story


here the light strips everything bare
we must rediscover its source
we must decode the day
incrusted with salt and fire


here the light is a living pillar
from the sky to the stones' blind crater
it supports the slow
unwinding of the night


and since each one is uneasy
at the return of darkness
the heat of song bursts forth
which is calmed by joy


here the desert also sculpts
a song to its measure
which man goes gathering
from dune to dune


here are other laws
in the aviary of words
each carefully chooses
an astonishing one


here each day as it's born
reminds the sky of its oaths
here the earth is thirsty
for that rain of stars


reality can be seen here
by the heart's eye only
the invisible haunts us
with its thwarted images


here the moon-bathed night
concurs with living things
I try to grasp its circle
its hammered face shies away


falls in the cistern's belly
it trembles on the black surface
then dissolves
I cannot drink that water


a cock crows just at midnight
to a morning which knows no farewells
those languid lands awake
from a long sleep's secret


cistern where spirits swirl
from the legendary patio
two turtledoves of sand
suddenly take flight