Amanhecer [1]

Michel Vachey

Translated from French by S. C. Delaney and Agnès Potier

He’d advance, believe he advanced; certainly he’d walk along this beachfront or skirt this mythical town, where he enjoyed himself indefinitely, there shortly before noon without hurrying, people in swimsuits playing ball on the pebbly beach on Christmas Eve—what staggering serenity (what force); he possessed the reason of all reasons, the physical joy of sinking, lovely vibrant orange, immortal dye, Lobaria pulmonaria.[2] To put it mildly, the sea air was doing him good. He knew he’d lose, that he was about to lose, and the certainty of “running toward his fate” sapped the gall of his own obstinacy. Beauty, putrefaction only a question of intervals, of happy or unlucky mishaps; now useless to imagine the dull tide, the foul depths beneath his nibbled legs; no, no illusion reigned but things, people would more or less linger on, quicker or slower, managing well or not so well, knowing or not how to come to a decision, how to take a shortcut. To find the oblique or the thread, or the audacity, or the understanding of death; for in fact, what counted was the existence of pleasure in the crowning gesture, in the drawn design, and now this design, the landscape itself, might have been someone’s life, an art object—strictly speaking a landscape though able to mean anything outside others’ ken, beyond humiliation. His chest is hollow, carved out of myriad sapphire geodes on which blackened the yellow of marigolds, spreading into a field of jennet, a tranquil hive, some women coming toward him, surprised in extremis by his burning gaze—distant, how very distant! and hard like pillars of lava—frightened, frightful. People would know. And even that would no longer matter. They know those films showing the sped-up life of a flower from the bud’s formation to the drop of faded petals, shriveling up, all in a few seconds. How many hours for a man or woman’s life? It’s said that the flower, so exquisite, is already a death (botanically speaking, though who speaks botanically?—neither humans nor plants). So where’s the tragedy, the catastrophe? Where’s the great design, or what does it even become? Nothing. Or like now, the sea air, the ball players Lobaria pulmonaria backing the air, sheer velocity of appearance and transformations, the certainty of the fall. Amanhecer. The titanic battle between sunrise and sunset resolved in waves and plumes, burnt oranges plunged in sapphire water, the breathing of an intrinsically guileful being, beguiling with the light that would have the last word, the last image—whatever that might be. With eyes half-closed, a woman admired his fine pullover sweater. In reality a sweater quite plain, flower to represent speed, you’d need several for a full biography; the one here, like so many others, the fine sweater, etc., becomes a human image—any form, whatever its source, as if already borrowed. She admired.

Notes
[1] Portuguese word for dawn.
[2] A lichen that grows in damp climates and, when boiled, produces an orange dye.

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