4

Hiss of the axe

Translated by Keith Cohen

Love begins with a bench. I recognize it: that’s the one where Pushkin throws over Tatiana. The one before which Marina, a hundred years later, stops, struck by waiting. Under the influence of that story.

But in truth the story began with running through the garden. The approach of a horse can be heard. It all comes from extremely far away. The one who fled before coming is Onegin. Someone that author (Pushkin) doesn’t like very much, knowing how he is. Tatiana flees into the garden, she runs, she flies, not daring to turn around, not daring to see that he’s not following her, him whom she awaits she is fleeing from, the arbor, the footbridge, the meadow, the pathway, the little wood, breaking the lilac branches, the stream, the flowers, and out of breath she collapses onto the bench. One can flee no farther. Here hope is brought to a stop. Fear. The bench, the stream. On the other side sorrow begins.

What I love: the running, what Marina loves: the bench. Each of us reads in our own book. The author: hesitates. In Marina’s book: a bench.

A bench. On the bench Tatiana. Enter Onegin. He doesn’t sit down. It’s all over already. She’s the one who stands up. To make amends? They both remain standing. Standing: Separation? Both. But he’s the only one who speaks. He speaks for a long time. All the time. She doesn’t say a word. Between them speaking doesn’t yield a word.

Time has entered into it, the long time, estrangement: with huge shovelfuls it digs away between the two of them deeper and deeper: ‘I was not made for happiness, to my soul it is unknown. Marriage would kill us. Loving you up close would very quickly become a routine for me, and love would cease. If I were to love, it would be from afar, once in awhile, separately.’

Marina reads. That’s love, says the story, a bench, and between her on

‘Respiration de la hache’ was first published in Contretemps 1 (1995): 104-111.

-50-

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