Before disappearing far off, farther than the human eye could launch its arrow, the gods shook the firmament, let fall a few fragments of infinity on my forehead, and breathed the nostalgia of the Absolute in my core. A blazing firebrand planted in the soft flesh, from birth: echoes of silence striking my chest; presence within absence, sprung from the ocean of ages like a wave of equinox. How could I bear to be abandoned to the chimeras of fate, to be promised to the twilight of a dark age by the brightest light.
Wherever I turned my face, I only saw a world of shadowy temples and the specter of the absence covering every atom of the universe: herds roaming the surface of the earth, their foreheads hitting the walls of a trompe-l’oeil labyrinth; dwarf shepherds, bloated with bad winds, demoralizing the masses to better control them; anonymous hands diverting the great wheel of history in the cold rooms of power; “bull-faced Stupidity” — old, ugly and controlling — ordering heaven’s dark stars and four winds emptied of their God.
This century without sky and anchor was only a mirage; this sprinkling of sand thrown into the ocean of existence, but a fable: it was not me. I knew it. I felt it. No matter what I did, I remained a spectator; no matter what I saw, a stranger to the spectacle. These hordes of undead staggering over the void gave me vertigo. All this warm flesh drunk with the wine of oblivion nauseated me. Everything was too ugly to be true. I prayed to be torn from Man’s long sleep, to be offered love and truth blended with the eternal present. I would have liked the seemingly real to fall like a veil at the foot of a larger Reality, to burn there on the spot: forever.
Dreams of Elsewhere. Dreams of beyond elsewhere. My lungs were seeking the high seas air, the one that is sorely lacking.
So the eye, astray on a wide beach,
Sees the fugitive waves recede from the shore,
Decrease, flatten, soon only offering the eyes
A quiet horizon blended in the skies.
—Louis Raymond de Carbonnières
The first love wards off the specter of a world inhabited by rusty-winged adults with collapsed dreams, whose automated arms open before you but no longer close. It takes the place of worldly theater, of a societal lie, of a future with deserted temples and a wrinkled forehead. Curtain. Give way to the sun. To all the rising suns.
The light is here, with her.
She reveals herself to my gaze naturally, the way spring unveils the blueness of sky or the gold of your skin. She slowly removes makeup, masks and ornaments, and gives me a vision of herself bewitched, of herself bewitching: she adores me and I unlock her.
Sprung raw from a virginal flame, passion takes us whole under its animal breath: the sun sparks impale our bodies galloping in a crash of oceans.
We reign in this world where the beloved becomes everything, the only face of what is faceless, this shoreless elsewhere suddenly offering itself bare: we reign as servants of the first heartbreak given over to the fervor and dictatorship of our eighteen years.
Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, author of Plus loin qulailleurs (Éditions du Cygne, 2013), is published in numerous anthologies of short stories and poetry, including Petite anthologie de la jeune poésie française (Éditions Géhess, 2009), Le livre de la prière (Éditions de l’Inférieur, 2013), and Poètes français et marocains, Anthologie 2 (Éditions Polyglotte, 2014), in the literary journals Les Citadelles, Poésie Directe, Littérales, Polyglotte, Recours au Poème, Testament, in the magazines 3è Millénaire and L’Opinion indépendante, and contributed to Irak, la faute, by Alain Michel and Fabien Voyer (Éditions du Cerf, 2000).
Gabriel graduated from Sciences Po and holds a Master’s degree (Fondements des Droits de l’Homme). After studying philosophy and Eastern poetry, he became fascinated with the history and ideas of the great religions and their poetic expression in particular, which took him to India six years later.
Beyond Elsewhere, translated by Hélène Cardona and published by White Pine Press in 2016, was the recipient of a Hemingway Grant. The Romanian translation by Gabriela Mocanasu was published by the prestigious Junimea Editions in 2014. Spanish and Persian translations are in progress.
Hélène Cardona is a poet, literary translator and actor, whose most recent books include Life in Suspension and Dreaming My Animal Selves (both from Salmon Poetry), and the translations Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, White Pine Press), winner of a Hemingway Grant; Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux, Éditions du Cygne), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb.
She has also translated Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Aloysius Bertrand, Maram Al-Masri, Eric Sarner, Christiane Singer, René Depestre, Ernest Pépin, Jean-Claude Renard, Nicolas Grenier, and her father José Manuel Cardona. A Romanian translation of Dreaming My Animal Selves was published by Junimea Editions in 2016. Her work has been translated into 13 languages.
She holds a Master’s in American Literature from the Sorbonne, received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut and Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, worked as a translator for the Canadian Embassy in Paris, and taught at Hamilton College and Loyola Marymount University. She contributes essays to The London Magazine, and co-edits Plume and Fulcrum.
Publications include Washington Square Review, World Literature Today, Poetry International, Dublin Review of Books, Asymptote, The Brooklyn Rail, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Warwick Review, Irish Literary Times and elsewhere.