Robert Desnos

Translated from the French by Jules Lefèvre

The anemone who reigned over the sea

The anemone who reigned over the sea
Still reigns this is understood
But so little she is lost
She is lost at the bottom of the seas
She remembers her diamonds
suspended in a rainbow
suspended in the dew
and the oysters yawn all around
to offer her pearls
But the anemone who reigned over the sea
now hardly reigns at all and the iron anchor
has bitten her cruelly and soon she will die.

The delicate cactus

The delicate cactus
is a hell of a fellow
is a famous good-for-nothing
is a big oaf
is a shoeless tramp
is a pistol
is an odd little rogue
is odd
is a clown
naturally since it's a pistol
is odd looking
a troublemaker
an admiral of the forests
a pigskin general
The terror of the sands
The tenor for the deaf and mute
but this does not settle his little affairs
or well-being.

Robert Desnos was born in July 1900 in Paris. In the 1920’s, he was part of the vanguard of the literary surrealist movement with writers such as André Breton, producing eight books of poetry, including Language Cuit (1923) and Journal d’une apparition (1927). He also wrote several radio plays, including La Grande complainte de Fantômas (1933). He joined the Resistance during WWII and was later arrested. He died of typhoid in the Terezin concentration camp.

Jules Lefèvre lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and teaches middle school French. He also writes fiction and plays music. This is his first published translation.

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