About ports

Green sea-tarnished copper
And sea-tarnished gold
Of cupolas.

Sea-runnelled streets
Channelled by salt air
That wears the white stone.

The sunlight-filled cistern
Of a dry-dock. Square shadows.
Sun-slatted smoke above meticulous stooping of cranes.

Water pressed up by ships’ prows
Going, coming.

City dust turned
Back by the sea-wind’s


When I reflect on my journeys throughout the world, which have gone on for so long now, it sometimes strikes me that the most troubling problems were not so much borders and front lines, or the exertion and the danger, as the constantly recurring uncertainty about the nature and course of my encounters with Others, with the other people I came across somewhere along the way. After all, I knew that a great deal, and at times everything, was at stake. Each of these encounters was an unknown: What would it be like? How would it unfold? What would it lead to? (more…)

The last twenty years were good for practically everybody
save the dead. But maybe for them as well.
Maybe the Almighty Himself has turned a bit bourgeois
and uses a credit card. For otherwise time’s passage
makes no sense. Hence memories, recollections,
values, deportment. One hopes one hasn’t
spent one’s mother or father or both, or a handful of friends entirely
as they cease to hound one’s dreams. One’s dreams,
unlike the city, become less populous
the older one gets. That’s why the eternal rest
cancels analysis. The last twenty years were godd
for practically everybody and constituted
the afterlife for the dead. Its quality could be questioned
but not its duration. The dead, one assumes, would not
mind attaining a homeless state, and sleep in archways
or watch pregnant submarines returning
to their native pen after a worldwide journey
without destroying life on earth, without
even a proper flag to hoist.

Great ports and swarming cities
There be by all the seas,
With shipping in their harbours
And bales upon the quays;
But I’d leave them all behind me
To cruise the wide world round,
And maybe find an island
(A lost and lonely island!)
That no one else has found. (more…)

In the foreground we see time and life
swept in a race
toward the left hand side of the picture
where shore meets shore.

But that meeting place
isn’t represented;
it doesn’t occur on the canvas.

For the other side of the bay
is Heaven and Eternity,
with a bleak white haze over its mountains.

And the immense water of L’Estaque is a go-between
for minute rowboats.


Down here where the ships loom large in
The gloom when the sea-storms veer,
Down here on the south-west margin
Of the western hemisphere,
Where the might of a world-wide ocean
Round the youngest land rolls free—
Storm-bound from the world’s commotion,
Lie the Ports of the Open Sea.  (more…)

Oui, j’ai quitté ce port tranquille,
Ce port si longtemps appelé,
Où loin des ennuis de la ville,
Dans un loisir doux et facile,
Sans bruit mes jours auraient coulé. (more…)

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