(December 1, over Scotland, heading for the southern tip of Greenland.) I note this last night in Calvino (Le Città Invisibli )on a piece of blue paper from the bedside notebook : the “invisible thread that binds one living being to another for a moment and then comes undone.” I tear it out of my notebook and stuff it into my backpack, near the passport and electronic boarding pass.
It reminds me of Baudelaire’s sonnet “A Une Passante,” which I have always found moving, and true of life’s serendipitous encounters, the mix of joy and sadness. (My translation, and the original French are below. It may be, however, that the blog will not reproduce the line breaks.)
And also of a Milosz poem, whose title escapes me, a poem about sitting in a café with a woman, and Milosz asks, as I recall “What good would it have done to have knocked over the table…thus is affirmed (something) and human tenderness.”
TO A PASSERBY
The street, deafening, howled around me.
Long, slender, dressed in black, in her grief queenly,
The woman passed, with her sumptuous hand
Lifting, swinging, her flounces and hemline;
Light of foot and noble, a sculpted leg.
Me—rigid as a clown—spellbound, drinking
Her gaze, livid sky where hurricanes seed,
Mildness that fascinates: pleasure that kills.
One flash…before night! —Fugitive beauty,
Whose glance jolts me back to life, shall we
Meet again only in eternity?
Elsewhere! Far from here! too late! never maybe!
For I don't know where you flee, or you me,
You whom I'd have loved, oh you who knew it!
À UNE PASSANTE
La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.
Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,
Une femme passa, d'une main fastueuse
Soulevant, balançant le feston et l'ourlet;
Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue.
Moi, je buvais, crispé comme un extravagant,
Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l'ouragon,
La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir que tue.
Un éclair… puis la nuit! —Fugitive beauté
Dont le regard m'a fait soudainement renaître,
Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l'éternité?
Ailleurs, bien loin d'ici! trop tard! jamais peut-être!
Car j'ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,
Ô toi que j'eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais!