from The Book of Snow

by Philip Mosley, translating from the French by François Jacqmin

copyright ©Translation copyright Philip Mosley 2010

Snow
overlays snow and cancels out its whiteness.
Everything lives and dies out
like that.
Being keeps house; at a stroke it
settles
the squall or the propensity to reason why.
Original certainty remains
thus,
by distinguishing nothing from nothing.

Notes on the Poem

Just outside the window next to where this poem is being considered and these notes are being written, snow has fallen thickly for the first time in many months. The quality of the light coming through this window has changed dramatically. It's now a bit harsh and almost blue-tinged, but it's also calming in its directness and clarity. This reader believes that Philip Mosley, translating sensitively from François Jacqmin's original work in French, has created the same clear, direct effect. It's essential that the words be clear and direct when they're dealing with life and death, in as unvarnished a fashion possible: "Everything lives and dies out like that." We're invited to contemplate this via the soft, soothing image of more snow falling on snow: "Snow overlays snow and cancels out its whiteness." Rather than thoughts of life and death provoking fear or mental sturm und drang, Mosley seems to advise that simply being "settles the squall" or quells furious questioning. At the same time, this succinct but telling testament to serene acceptance does not diminish the profundity of what is being imagined and accepted.

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