Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 14 • Summer 2005 • Featured Lodestar Writer • Poetry

The Sleepers

Jean Sénac,
translated from the French by David Bergman and Katia Sainson


Here silence is called for
where the night rumbles and the sea wears it away
where only children's hoops cry out
death heavy on their backs.

Clear-headed men walk quickly
their ideas speed round
the sun and love,
but freedom's flower grows slow

Patient land. Land worthy of love.
Beneath their eyelids, the humiliated tend
their hives, branding irons
and looks that frighten away the hyena and lion

Yes, here silence is called for
where only the child's pain cuts deep
the sleepers drunk on the temperate wind
Beware of the green morning.


Greet this springtime of intensive care
Greet it your hands are free
though your heart is hardly pure

what tumor isolates you from other men
what thirst has robbed you as you kneel at the well
what night has disqualified you from the race.

but already
leadens your face

And yet
the sea is blue
the rock firm
the earth revolves
to the rhythm of your sandals
the reconciled child lingers over the flower

Greet the spring
winter had its mildness
but the summer, oh sleeper
will be fraught with risk

You will speak then
through clenched teeth clutching your happiness

You will speak of the poverty all around you
you will open your heart to the shared homeland

Or you will flee

For this land has no room for cowards
and the sun is as blunt as a fist.

Jean Sénac was a teacher, soldier, and writer. He was the author of numerous collections of poems, including Citoyens de beautÚ and Jubilation, and one novel, Ébauche du père: pour en finir avec l'enfance. Following the Algerian revolution, he worked in the Ministry of Education in Algeria and for Radio-Algiers with a daily program, PoÚsie sur tous les fronts. He was the founder of the magazines Soleil, Terrasses, and cofounder of Galery 54. He was murdered, possibly because of his political beliefs, in August 1973 in Algiers. More information (in French): French Wikipedia: Jean Sénac.

David Bergman is a professor of English at Towson State University, the author of Gaiety Transfigured: Gay Representation in American Literature, and the editor of Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality. Bergman has published poetry in The Paris Review, The New Criterion, and The New Republic. He has edited a collection of Edmund White's essays entitled The Burning Library. His latest book is The Violet Hour: The Violet Quill and the Making of Gay Culture (Columbia University Press, 2004). He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

David Bergman and Katia Sainson are preparing an edition of Jean Sénac's Selected Poems. They teach at Towson University.

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