Villains

Tristan Tzara
Translated from the French by Heather Green

eyes steeped in a wet and thatched obediencepistils of silence kindle underneath your stepsyou walk a tightrope in the desertdazzling among the tracks of kingsthe wind in vain with death between its teethhas passed retracing the rock facewhile your light nests in a tranquil flowwhere desire illuminates the atmosphere of thingslet hunger cross its horrible wingslet the tree choke on its cries among the stiff wristsleave the city’s sole worry in the hands of the blindlet beauty only recognize itself at the pleasure of the mirrorlet the bridges by which she is recognized be blastedand from among all images let pain come first to mindlet the stalemate of the seas end here in your solitudeaxis of heat cloaked in the flesh of your flightperpetually the same on all sidestender water of sleep offered aroundwater that pacifies by calling every blade of grass by namechildhood nameyou are steeped in barkyou speak between the lashes of the leavesit’s you who appears at the wind’s own windowbetween each stroke of the clocki speak of the clocki help you on with your cloakwhen the sun sweeps the horizoni speak to you of horizonand my sorrow is tracedaround each letter like a hard rootlet the house silenced by forestsnakedly wear its thirst for the worldit’s the shortest riverwhose evening friendship is stripped awayyour cruel youth on the pavementthe first saidthe salt of obliviondogs in the stars’ jaws underneath the tablea lamp keeps watch in the raingobsmacked the silence forever and everthe second says friends in sightsheltered under rocks the eye is clearerthan the fear that bites the shipand if something has not yet been saidit’s that the pain timerflickers in spurts of lightits innocence tossed to the deafness of drinking troughson the steps marches and markets of this citycity—hardly villagevillage—no—a mind in the middle of the nightunleashing the terrible machines of the huntthe first is ruinthe second is deaththe second is the deadsolitude how could i celebrate with youshadow play against love

Malfaiteurs

les yeux imprégnés d’une humide docilité de chaumedes pistils de silence s’allument sous tes pastu marches sur un fil tendu dans le désertéblouissante parmi les pistes des roisen vain le vent la mort entre les dentsa passé retournant la figure des rochesc’est dans l’onde sereine que nidifie ta lumièreoù le désir éclaire l’air des chosesque la faim croise ses ailes d’épouvanteque l’arbre s’étrangle dans ses cris parmi les durs poignetsque l’unique souci de la ville soit dans les mains de l’aveugleque la beauté ne se juge qu’au bonheur de la glaceque les ponts par lesquels on la reconnaît soient rompusque de toutes les images la douleur vienne en têteque l’impasse des mers aboutisse à ta solitudepôle de chaleur enrobé dans la chair de ta fuiteperpétuellement la même sous toutes les facestendre eau d’un sommeil offert à la rondequi apaise en appelant chaque brin d’herbe par son nomnom d’enfanttu es pétrie dans l’écorcetu parles entre les cils des feuillesc’est toi qui apparais à la fenêtre du vententre chaque coup d’horlogeje parle de l’horlogeje te sers de pèlerinequand le soleil balaye l’horizonje te parle d’horizonet ma peine est à chaque lettretracée comme une dure racineque la maison assourdie de forêtsporte dans la nudité de sa soif de mondesc’est la courte rivièredont s’arrache l’amitié du soirta cruelle jeunesse sur le pavéle premier ditle sel de l’oublieles chiens aux mâchoires d’étoiles sous la tableune lampe est de quart dans la pluiebras ballants le silence à tout jamaisle deuxième dit amis en vuesous roche l’œil est plus clairque la peur ne mord au navireet si rien n’est encore ditc’est que la minuterie de la peinedarde par à-coups de lumièreson innocence jetée aux surdités d’abreuvoirssur les marches démarches et marchés de cette villeville – à peine villagevillage non une tête au sein de la nuitdéchaînant les terribles machines de chassele premier est ruinele deuxième est mortle deuxième est la mortsolitude comment pouvais-je à te fêterjouer ombre contre amour

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Tristan Tzara (1896–1963) is best known as the cofounder of the Dada movement and author of many of its most influential poems and manifestoes. Born in Romania, Tzara moved to Zurich in 1915, where Dada flourished at the Cabaret Voltaire. In 1919, he brought Dada to Paris where, with a few interruptions, he lived for the rest of his life. After the peak of the Dada era, Tzara wrote his epic “Approximate Man,” and joined the Surrealists for several years. In the 1930s, he worked organizing writers in support of the anti-fascist cause in the Spanish Civil War. During World War II, stayed in France and participated in the Résistance. Between 1919 and his death in 1963, Tzara published more than fifty books in French. Though his epitaph is simply “poète,” he also wrote and worked as a journalist, playwright, art critic and collector, historian, literary critic, and human rights advocate.

Heather Green

Heather Green is the author of No Other Rome (Akron Poetry Series, Akron UP). Her poems have appeared in Bennington Review, Denver Quarterly, the New Yorker, and elsewhere. She is the translator of Tristan Tzara’s Noontimes Won (Octopus Books) and Guide to the Heart Rail (Goodmorning Menagerie). Her translations of Tzara’s work have appeared in Asymptote, Open Letters Monthly, Poetry International, and several anthologies. She teaches in the School of Art at George Mason University. More at https://www.heather-green.com/.

In Noontimes Won, Tristan Tzara floods the pages with a torrent of images. In Heather Green’s translation of Tzara’s 1939 collection, in cosmic imagery beside communist imagery, we see Tzara’s peripatetic mind haunted by the death and destruction he’d witnessed in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Unpunctuated lines move like gears, one phrase turning into the next in a relentless forward motion. By contrast, the voice, at times halting and desolate, is made of a profoundly human doubt.

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