We return by a slow love

for the leaving was rushed

shoulders were not yet revived

and mouths not yet closed

on the words of bitter hope

nor arms and stones

on the emptiness and the earth


Now there will only be this land

to hear our supplication

for the houses have all fallen

and in the houses

the rooms now lie empty and vain

almost inhuman



Like a soft jazz the open road

chases away all the blues

we will sleep thirty metres above

the ocean and come what may

already the future is a diamond

whistling in our ears

sometimes you disappear mid-day

to wander alone through my territory

and the uninhabited pictures of my childhood

you my love in the blazing sun

at the heart of the irreparable

you dictate gestures of appeasement

to this land



Over and over the ocean rises up

and reorders its waves in careful lines

but in the sand footprints

released from the eye’s gaze

have escaped into the fathomless

memory of the land

they tell the story of children

who played here long ago

their body and their soul

inscribed in a strange alphabet

it is the babbled novel look

look! it is we who are

the engravers forever engraved

the test and the testament

on the star in its wanderings

it is this beach illuminated by time

that speaks of us the absent ones

on continents dispersed



Like a long lost relic

you bring my trembling

confused face to the sediments

my ancestral home is covered

with familiar calligraphy but

you know nothing of the disaster

that lurks beneath each stroke


Though we hold the heavens

in our outstretched hands

in songs of carefree indifference

there will always be this land

solemn and majestic

and when all is said and done

it will be our tombstone our one

our sole privilege



I am afraid I no longer know

how to shape words shed tears

this strange thing is it my tongue?

I feel bodies roll behind my lips

how do they do it?

those who keep the whole world

clasped between their teeth

do they talk with their mouth full?

do they moan? and by what path

do they reach their fellow creatures?



Let me feel at last

the blinding white light

take me to the ancient shore

and leave me

leave me to the plenitude

relinquish me

I will be that prostrate form

ear tight against the sand

imploring the earth to take

back its remnant of atoms

then come for me

when the new moon rises

I will sleep when life has

reclaimed my body


Rachel Leclerc

Rachel Leclerc is a Québécoise poet and novelist. She has published eight books of poetry, for which she has received numerous awards, including the Prix Jovette-Bernier and Prix Émile-Nelligan for Les vies frontalières (1991). She won the Prix Alain-Grandbois for Rabatteurs d’étoiles (1994). Her sixth novel is due out in fall 2016. This year she returned to live in her native Gaspésie, after making her home in Montréal for over three decades. She says that what propels her to write is a “visceral hunger to make light.”

CS Lemprière

CS Lemprière is a writer and translator. Her translation of a suite of poems from Rachel Leclerc’s Je ne vous attendais pas ("I Was Not Expecting You") was a finalist in the Malahat Review’s 2014 Les poésies francophones du Canada: A Translation Prize, and later published in Carte blanche. She is currently at work on a full translation of Leclerc’s Les vies frontalières (Borderlives). Her original works and translations have appeared in Jonah, Ambos and Feathertale, among other literary magazines. She lives near Beloeil, Québec and can be reached at [email protected].

Les vies frontalières. Copyright (c) Éditions du Noroît, Montréal, 1991. English translation copyright (c) CS Lemprière, 2016.