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Keep the Void Open

by Vahé Godel
Translated from French by
Victor Pambuccian

To Ion Caraion (in memoriam)

what’s to be done

when there’s nothing left to do?

rise up

hide away


be quiet

lend an ear,

open the eyes, stick out your tongue, remove your last arrow, settle down, grow warts on your face, lose your footing, find a language, perforate your target, plunge to the bottom of the chasm, hell or heaven, it doesn’t matter, stretch out the time of the plunge for as long as possible, sink, endlessly sink, long-drawn-out hesitation between sound and sense, correspondence between image and song, thunder and cry, the eye listens, the ear sees, complicity of the eye and the mouth, the eye drinks, the mouth lights up, the devouring eye and the bedazzled mouth, gesture joining voice, a matter of breathing and fingering, the mouth obeys the finger no less than it does the eye, it’s a matter of rhythm, for the most part, which has to do with music, yes, a matter of ear, the distress call sent by hunters lost in the deep woods, thus a rhythm, a sound, a little noise, the sound I make when I feel most at ease with myself, if you want, a kind of audible writing, a music, a rhythm, who says rhythm says form (those mysterious series of little marks, those regular incisions, made on fragments of shinbones, of shoulder bones or of skulls, about 35 000 years before Christ: that’s perhaps how the most ancient rhythmic representations look like), a rhythm, a form, a rhythm, a form, it’s the rehearsal that generates the rhythm, a form, a music, a music in which there is much silence, a language made up entirely of little dreams, a web of dreams (as in: a web of lies)

what’s to be done

when memory sinks

and hope

flies away?

close your eyes

walk in front of yourself

on luminous waters


the absence of birds

birds, the absence, the

silence (silentio que canta), yes, that’s it, a nothingness trying to find shape, a hole, a whole, a hole that’s mow ejecting, now engulfing me, a whole reduced to bits and pieces, proliferation, pulsation, pulverization

what’s to be done

in the middle of the desert?

seize the unseizable

reduce the sand universe

to syllables

of a single stanza

make the void desirable

the void, the desert,

desire, I’m looking for salvation in an aphorism, a singing silence, yes, for everything holds together in reality, from the same desert and the same night, everything is connected, everything betrays us, the voice, the silence, the eyes . . . what does remain in the end? a mixture, a texture, a garment, a seamless gown, silkier than silk, but, oddly enough, in this instance, it’s clothes that give rise to the body to be clothed, the body submits to the standards of the fabric, really, undressed the body doesn’t exist—nude (null)

what’s to be done in times like these?

slow down slow down

the crowds are on our heels

we ought to move as little as possible

so slow down, move

as little as possible . . . yet what matters most is to not lose the thread, not lose the lead, saw the song, put the bits and pieces together, be both rhapsode and mosaic tiler, memory and melody, writing and painting, eclogue and galaxy, image and blank page, text and engravings, chamber music and password

rise up

hide away


be quiet

refuse to be

quiet, preserve, perpetuate the use and power of the word . . . I repeat myself, yes, I certainly do, I keep rehearsing, I keep going back to the same story, I endlessly repeat myself, I turn around myself, yes, I turn, turn, turn, made drunk by this circular movement leading nowhere…for if I am a rhapsode and a mosaic tiler, moreover, I am a kind of whirling dervish, writing is a spiral that opens over the abyss of being, the poetical is a circular production, my body is the hub of an invisible wheel, all of life takes place, all living things turn around a center, itself moving around a center, endlessly . . . our model is in the sky, yes, all those bodies that break all the time yet their movement prevents them from falling during all those mishaps, all those fragments, all those figures, all those traces . . . this whole disaster—this craving for disaster . . . which means that, for once, one should above all not be afraid of the fall, no, by all means, not be afraid of the void, . . . what’s more: one should give preference to the fall, always keep the void open

Vahé Godel is a French Swiss writer, translator, and scholar of Armenian literature. While being a well-known writer in his own right in his native Switzerland, Vahé Godel has also translated numerous Armenian poets, both past and present. His translations include: Odes et lamentations by Grégoire de Narek, Tous les désirs de l'âme by Grégoire de Narek and Nahabed Koutchag, Le chant du pain by Daniel Varoujan, J’apporterai des pierres and Erevan by Marine Petrossian.
Victor Pambuccian is professor of mathematics at Arizona State University. His primary concern is the axiomatic foundation of geometry, in which he has published over ninety papers. His English translations of Romanian poems by Tzara, Fundoianu, Blecher, and Celan have appeared in Words Without Borders and International Poetry Review. He was the guest editor of the Fall 2011 issue of International Poetry Review, dedicated to contemporary poetry from Romania, and has translated most of the poems written in Romanian or French, and all those written in German in that anthology. His translations of the Swiss poet Vahé Godel have appeared in Two Lines. He has also co-translated Armenian poetry into German.