Claude Esteban, “The Bend”

The Bend (translation Joanie Mackowski, from Poetry Magazine)
Claude Esteban

Around the bend of a phrase
you return, it’s dawn in a book, it’s
a garden, one can
see everything, the dew, a moth
on a leaf and it’s you
who rises suddenly amid the pages
and the book grows more lovely
because it’s you
and you’ve not grown old, you walk
slowly to the door.


Mackowski may have made a blunder: she confesses in her translation notes that “moth” is not quite the word normally used, but “butterfly.” “Return” signals time, place (“dawn,” “garden”). One “see[s]” other objects (“dew,” “moth”/”butterfly”). The “leaf” itself may trigger the “pages;” the descent has already begun. We’re trying to imagine one who imagines. The emergence is predicated on futility. She’s imagined herself as beauty, too. Beauty cannot be had, it will flicker as an image and disappear to keep itself. She is not a butterfly. Does “door” bring us back to a lonely reality? I don’t know. I’m happy to have loved and lost. It means I’m real, and they’re real – although elsewhere – when I remember them ideally. Perhaps when one is loved, they think about another and go through that door with them.


  1. Very pretty poem. Translations always make me want to learn the original language, but wow that would be some kind of undertaking just to re-read a poem!

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