Love and Time

Max Jacob

(originally dedicated to Michel Leiris)

Revue Européenne, August 1923
Les Pénitents en maillots roses, 1925

When a white arm slips off its glove
You recall an absent love
When like a breeze in a field of wheat
A skirt rustling near your feet
Brushes against your dancing shoe
Something lightly troubles you.

When someone sings to the harpsichord
Every note and every chord
Speak of her, only of her.
Autumn and the dying leaves that stir
The train car carrying you away
Recall a kiss you shared one day
In Algiers on holiday!

Look at yourself in the mirror well!
All that’s left of what was dawn
Is evening and the vesper bell.
What has Time, to love unknown,
Done to Eleonore
While leaving you sick and sore?

Fine love, oh Mediterranean Sea
I’ve kept from all your gentleness
And from your sweet old-fashioned dress
Nothing but a mocking memory.

Pompom of broccoli green, rose-red,
Venus was born in your bed
Under an apple-green baldaquin!
In Ocean, she’d have been a man.

Max Jacob

Max Jacob (1876-1944) was a French poet, novelist, playwright, and painter, close companion to Picasso. He helped to create Modernist poetry in France, and his most famous book is the collection of radical prose poems. A Jewish convert to Roman Catholicism, Jacob died in the Nazi transit camp of Drancy outside of Paris in March 1944. This poem was translated by Rosanna Warren, who is a poet, translator, and professor of Comparative Literature in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her most recent collection of poems is Ghost in a Red Hat (2011). Published with thanks to Mme Sylvia Lorant-Colle and Éditions Gallimard.


(originally dedicated to Michel Leiris) Revue Européenne, August 1923 Les Pénitents en maillots roses, 1925 When a white arm slips off its glove You recall an absent love When like a breeze in a field of wheat A skirt rustling near your feet Brushes against your dancing shoe Something lightly troubles you. When someone sings …

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