Passing the Frontier

By Pierre Martory 1920–1998 Pierre Martory

Translated By John Ashbery

The yellow line could be seen for as long a time
As the highway desired
And if you fell asleep at the wheel
It fulgurated in the dozing soul
Like a brutal revelation
That allows you not to feel
In the dream’s snapshot
Your brain getting smashed
Against the milestone or the windshield   
It was an ideal line
Crowned with horizontal blue
That unwound day after day
Like a clothesline
Flags and scalps and washed-out roses
Our countries our combats our wars
Mingling lassitude with involuntary starts
A gymnastic in disorder
That sickened our hearts

“Passing the Frontier” from The Landscapist: Selected Poems by Pierre Martory, translated by John Ashbery. English translation copyright 1961, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008 by John Ashbery. Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc., on behalf of John Ashbery. All rights reserved.

Source: Poetry (June 1993).


This poem originally appeared in the June 1993 issue of Poetry magazine

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June 1993


French poet Pierre Martory was born in Bayonne, France, grew up in Morocco, and attended the School of Political Science in Paris. He fled Paris before the Germans arrived and served in the French Army in Morocco during World War II. After the war, he worked as a drama and music critic for Paris-Match and published a novel, Phébus ou le beau marriage (1953). In 1956, he met the poet John Ashbery in Paris; he and Ashbery lived . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals


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