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Elegy

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Adieu near those fields that smoke disembowels                   
                 And that your arm pushes away
For a long time until the inevitable stratum of the                   
                 Adieus until the next                               
                             Adieu   
 
The door in a cliff has closed. I wanted
Daylight to enter here only through the arc-lamp of your eyes
That the limits of this place be defined only
By the carnal walls our bodies erected   
 
Opened wider on the recaptured past than the smallest
Pocket-watch and its visible trail ever were
Your mouth swallowed the hour and my teeth broke on it
When I entered you with kisses   
 
Under the full-blown palm of multiple hands
The rose you know, on the ground now,
Perfumed the silence and killed our secrets
Marking our garden with fear that was no longer fear   
 
Adieu    the songs are ended    the years disemboweled
                  And may your body distance itself
For a long time until the ineluctable regret of
                  Adieus until forever

“Elegy” 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: The Landscapist (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2008)

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

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Elegy

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  • 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 together for nine years, and Ashbery eventually became his English translator.

    His collections of poetry include Every Question but One (1990), The Landscape Is Behind the Door (1994), Veilleur de jours (1997), and the posthumous Oh, Lac / Oh, Lake (2008) and The Landscapist: Selected Poems (2008). Martory’s poetry is often associative and surreal, sharing some similarities with the work of Ashbery. Mark Ford, reviewing The Landscapist in the Times Literary Supplement, described...

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