From Tepid Monsters by Benoît Gréan



A chair
invades space
a bed as horizon
stifled screams fondle
a fattened silence

front-row seats this lovely day
Haggard inhabiting
full-page spread
in guarded language
a shroud picked apart
fighter so keen and tottering
stricken smashing the tumors to bits

For the linen to dry
he hangs dead leaves
where someone could play
at palmistry

young old man on home marshland

Eyelids unstitched
words adrift
one mimes merry widow
where the laughs are dashed
cancer bulking flush with storm
To feed fair death
to a doomed man fermenting
other plans for a past
first light of a radiant doubt
hollow bed and heart on edge
He dreams with raised fist
ensnared in storms
of stringy dawn
perhaps he wished
to be wakened abruptly
May autumn squid about our listless feet
while the minutes grow calluses
a gentle florist in love
with calm music
will unsnarl winds and seasons
To quench thorn plants’ thirst
before sunup
keep watch on humors as they rise
retouch but faintly
an original body
truce by stealth
When on return
a false start emerges
some child should rap at
our questing pasts
strip the dead
to dwell in words
This mellowed profile
tensed over chasm
tightrope walker along the days
mother will you gather
simples off the graves
The weather it takes
the complexion she fakes
when other subjects fume
that a pious hush prunes
to speak of nothing
May a quarter moon split apart in our fingers
deep in our guts
black ageless water
another evening may be right behind us
My solitude a feline night
an opera buffa
crowd stampedes
a shout mulls silence
masks or unmasks to the bone
Death-cell lust
for the unclad widow
gestures more fuzzy than ancient history
where a gorged paradise
vastly deflowers
Arched skeleton
playing the spinet
a dead fish under each note
he weaves
a bruised silence
a choir of unborn children orbits


Benoît Gréan

French poet Benoît Gréan is the author of ten volumes of poetry, several of which have been translated and published into German, Greek, and Italian. A teacher of Greek and Latin language and literature, he spent most of the 1980s in New York, and has since lived in Rome. He contributed to several issues of the painter Markus Lüpertz's magazine Frau und Hund, and has both collaborated regularly with visual artists (Luisa Gardini, Caroline Coppey) and addressed poetic cycles to their work (Gardini, Coppey, and Giorgio Bevignani). In 2015, the composer Valerio Sannicandro premiered his setting of Gréan's book Corps et riens in Kyoto.

David Jacobson

U.S. translator David Jacobson has lived since 2005 in Buenos Aires, where, like so many of the city's residents, he trained and practices as a psychoanalyst. In New York until his emigration, he worked on the editorial staffs of magazines, among them the New York Review of Books, and as a freelance translator, especially of writing on art, from German, French, and Italian. He can be reached at [email protected].

Monstres tièdes. Copyright (c) Benoît Gréan, 2003. English translation copyright (c) David Jacobson, 2020.