First Leaves by Sabine Sicaud

You reach your little tree-green hands to me,
Little green hands of trees lined orderly.
The old wounds crumble, wounds are seen
Scarring the aging houses, yet you reach
Your hedge-hands to my fingers, each to each.
Your little fingers green.

Little shell-fingers, young,
Luminous, eager, hurrying to grow…
You reach over the old walls spread below.
An old wall says: “Beware wild gusts, beware
The sun, burning unstrung.
Beware the night twinkling the air.
Beware the goat, the caterpillar’s tongue…
Beware life, little fingers green!”

Fingers, like rough or tender claws this morning,
How well you know what those walls mean.
Cassandra-voiced, they warn you. But what for?
Tissue-like fingers, or
Velveted, or enamelled, shimmering green–
How well you know why you ignore
Those ashen-coloured walls and all their warning…

Frail little fans of green,
Hands of next summer’s heat,
How well we know why you eschew
Those crumbling roofs and the old walls effete:
Over the walls, it’s youth that you
Are reaching to…

From: Shapiro, Norman R (ed), French Women Poets of Nine Centuries. The Distaff and the Pen, 2008, The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, p. 1049.

Date: 1958 (French publication); 2009 (translation)

By: Sabine Sicaud (1913-1928)

Translated by: Norman R Shapiro (?- )


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