Coming and Going

By Pierre Martory 1920–1998 Pierre Martory

Translated By John Ashbery

As long as you believe in miracles
You watch the sun fall into the sea
Every evening
Then you turn your back and sink
Among the ferns sparkling from a moon or from the other
Night up to your knees under the vault of cries.   
The pubescent monkeys, the adolescent pumas
Contemplate the slender crescent
Of the earth
In the eyes of a dead viper
That knots on the asphalt
The alpha of a future alphabet.   
It’s the end of night the mosquitoes
Place themselves on your forehead and die with you
In the ruins of your dreams erected
By the distant suggestions of cities
Where you wish to find an empty
Bed to die in.   
The cathedrals the cinemas the soliloquies
The beggar’s ear glued to the violin
To be lovesick when the songs
All temple prostitutes all rotgut for two cents
Are going to end up in the pink slit of a jukebox.   
Hope is under the hand that weak flesh
Groped massaged turgescent with eyes shut
Comes and goes
Let’s keep knotted kisses to ourselves for a long time
Until another day erases
The trace of each passing.

“Coming and Going” 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

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Living


Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.