Observers and Dreamers

René Char

Translated from the French by Nancy Naomi Carlson


For Maurice Blanchard

Before rejoining the nomads
Seducers ignite pillars of oil
To dramatize reapings of what was sown

Tomorrow poetic toil begins
Led by the cycle of death by free will
The reign of darkness engulfing reason, diamond inside the mine

Mothers in love with patrons of the last breath
Mothers prone to excess
Always tilling the massive heart
Through you will endlessly pass shivering ferns of embalmed thighs
You will be won
You will go to bed

Alone at the windows of rivers
Great faces filled with light
Dream there is nothing that dies
In their flesh-eating tableau.


Rene Char (1907-1988) was an early Surrealist and close friend of the visual artists Braque, Giacometti, and Picasso. During World War Two he was a leader in the underground French Resistance and later an ardent opponent of nuclear technology. His poetry confronts the moral, political, and artistic challenges of modernity with a prophetic eloquence comparable to the poet-philosophers of ancient Greece.

Nancy Naomi Carlson has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland Arts Council, and the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and is the author of three poetry collections, as well as the critically acclaimed Stone Lyre: Poems of René Char. She is an associate editor for Tupelo Press, teaches at the Bethesda Writer’s Center, and coordinates the graduate school counseling program at the University of the District of Columbia.


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