In Translation

Le chant de la terre innue

by Jean Bédard

VLB éditeur, 2014

Listen, for I am old.

I have been perched on a tree stump for a very long time. Arthritis.

I see the ages pick up and hurl the massifs of rock that stretch as far as the eye can see north of the tundra, the land without trees. There, great bumps of granite shift a yellow, purple, and turquoise lichen that wears away and comes back to life in seventy-year cycles. This ocean of rock, rippling so slowly, I can hear it today: the grandfather mountain at last lying down on his old land.

I wink once every thousand years—the old reflex of a hunter—and, at sunset,  my shadow covers the lop-sided plateau. (Put it down to tiredness.)

To the north, shoulders leaning over the rim of the horizon, mountains crane their broad necks to peer into the depths. Slowly, wind and time relieve them of their own weight: they fill out like geese, then lift their necks and take off into a sea of stars. Other mountains, closer to me, come brand new out of the ground, take the same path, and prepare for their mass migration through the black waters of the night.

I have also witnessed enormous glaciers form, then melt, and run off into a thousand rivers. The torrents hollowed out rocks and separated hills. And now lakes open their big eyes steaming with mist.

To the south, not so far away, the spruce trees of the taiga would approach the tundra and shrink back depending on the humour of the glaciers. The trees would rise up out of the snow, creak beneath the sun, grow old, fall into dust, disappear. Then surge up again, like the hairs on a moulted seal.

The steady breathing of my old grandmother earth.

The slow rhythm of her breaths is not easy on the joints. From time to time, wings must be opened, feet straightened, and the wind embraced.

PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32Translation by Peter McCambridge
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