Michel Galiana

Rookie (1933-1999 / France)

The Wrestler - Poem by Michel Galiana

Your love never would have assuaged this hatred
Which cast on me a spell that I could never tame.
Its cry in me soars like, from the torture chamber,
The song that convicts sing to alleviate their pain.
Never could your love be master of this hatred-
Nor of the stiffened mask on his face, the lover.

The lover did not break his dungeon of silence.
Or else your flight would have burnt its wings on that stove.
Pride protects this firm rock better than would a lance.
The forbidden standard streams in the wind of love,
But my scorn on me shuts a dungeon of silence
Once unleashed, your love would, remain without response.

As a response to love hatred is the language.
All I loved as yet is to me grief and folly
So that now, to untie the bewitchment of age
I have no tool, nor to break my captivity.
Of my poisons I make a more subtle usage
Than if I would indulge your foolish entreaty.

Your entreaty, allowed, would have been a torture.
Your soul would have gone there where thrive poisonous weeds
And regretted for long that its vow could mature.
Thus, the hateful Medea drenched in poison the Fleece
And the vessel carried for a longer torture
Him who thought that Fate could comply with his motives.

The motives were to you strange and unwise matters
For this endless struggle in which we're persisting:
A guest in me abides, shapeless, without features
Whose death would be my death and yet we are so keen
On hitting restlessly this strange brother of ours,
To make of his clamours a shape, we are groping.

Groping, we fathom out the fathomless strange face
And each cry issued forth makes us quake and shudder.
A wrestler arises from the depths of past age.
His breath I often heard, listened to his murmur,
But never does the sun illuminate the face
Of the guest, nor the fierce hatred both of us bear.

(Like a vessel whose flank a mine suddenly hits,
I sail to a harbour which is out of my reach,
And I feel how my holds with every night loose weight,
And how the fuel runs out for piston and for breech
And how death lies in wait and my soul inhabits
To blow out my sense and put an end to my search -

Or like a castle struck by a hail of bullets,
I see the rebels climb with torches up the tower
And I can't conceal from the assailing kinglet
The well that's running dry, the outgoing hearth-fire,
For though my walls are tall and defy the bullets,
A traitor will this fiend soon help to seize the power)

Both of us to one shape mingle with each other.
This panting struggle keeps our two minds so intent
That we perceive neither dawn nor morning warbler.
And I founded a realm that's called my detriment.
No one shall enter there who does not resemble
The one whom to destroy is my sole commitment.

My sole commitment is to serve well my hatred.
If your loveliness would some day visit my hell,
You’d be the nude martyr who is chained to the stake,
Whom the glowing brands claw, whom the iron tongs peel,
For you would then have reached the forge of my hatred-
And yet no other guest could be to me so dear.

So dear -for you could cause to fade away the face
Of the unknown guest who holds me and follows me.
And when I cast away the rags my spirit wears
His tatters will at last rise from the night, maybe;
My tenderness will then perceive the other face
Of the stubborn wrestler who haunted me nightly.


Votre amour ne pouvait dissiper cette haine
Dont je ne sus jamais briser l'enchantement.
Sa clameur monte en moi comme au coeur des géhennes
Chantent les condamnés pour bercer leurs tourments.
Votre amour ne pouvait venir à bout de haine-
Ni du masque figé la face de l'amant.

L'amant n'a pas brisé le cachot du silence.
Votre vol eut brûlé ses ailes à mon jour.
Une fierté défend ce roc mieux qu'une lance.
L'étendard interdit claque au vent de l'amour,
Mais mon dédain me fait un cachot de silence
Et votre amour lancé n'aura point de retour.

En retour à l'amour la haine est le langage.
Tout ce qui me fut cher est peine et déraison.
Je n'ai pour dénouer l'envoûtement de l'âge
Nulle arme, et pour briser l'obsédante prison.
De mes venins je fais un plus subtil usage
Que si de vos désirs j'exauçais l'oraison.

Votre oraison ouïe eut été le supplice.
Votre âme descendue où germent les poisons
Eut regretté longtemps que son voeu s'accomplisse.
La Colchide de haine imprégna la toison
Et la nef emporta pour un plus long supplice
Qui pensait au destin imposer sa raison.

La raison vous serait chose étrange et peu sage
De ce combat sans fin où nous nous entêtons.
Un hôte habite en moi, sans forme, sans visage,
Sa mort serait ma mort et pourtant nous heurtons
A coup sans fin le frère étranger et peu sage
Pour former de ses cris une forme, à tâtons.

À tâtons nous sondons l'insondable visage
Et les cris, un à un, habillent nos frissons.
Un lutteur est monté des profondeurs de l'âge.
J'ai souvent écouté son souffle, ses leçons,
Mais le soleil jamais n'éclaire le visage
De l'hôte, ni la haine où nous nous unissons.

(Comme un navire au flanc qui de sa mine s'ente,
Je navigue à mon port inaccessible, et sens
A ma cale sous moi chaque soir moins pesante
Que désertent mes feux les pistons impuissants
Et que bientôt la mort qui me guette et me hante
Achèvera ma course et soufflera mes sens –

Ou comme le château que battent les mitrailles,
Je vois briller aux tours la torche des mutins
Et je ne puis celer au César qui me raille
Le puits qui se tarit, le foyer qui s'éteint,
Car si mes murs sont hauts et bravent les mitrailles,
Un traître à mon démon ouvrira le destin)

Nous unissons nos corps pour briser leurs images.
Ce combat haletant tient nos esprits si fort
Que nous n'entendons plus l'aube ni le ramage.
Je bâtis un état qui pour nom a mon tort.
Nul n'y pénétrera s'il n'emprunte l'image
De celui que briser est mon seul réconfort.

Mon réconfort unique est de servir ma haine.
Si votre grâce un jour visitait mon enfer
Vous seriez le corps nu qu'au bûcher on enchaîne,
Que griffent les tisons, que crevassent les fers,
Car vous auriez atteint les forges de ma haine-
Et nul hôte pourtant ne me serait si cher.

Si cher -car vous sauriez éclipser le visage
De cet hôte inconnu qui me tient et me suit.
Lorsque je jetterai ma défroque hors d'usage
Sa dépouille, qui sait, sortira de la nuit
Et ma tendresse enfin saura l'autre visage
Du lutteur obstiné qui habite ma nuit.

Comments about The Wrestler by Michel Galiana

  • (5/7/2006 2:01:00 PM)

    This is extroadinarily fine work. There are a couple of moments where I may have opted for a different adjective or noun -only fairly arbitrary replacements- but I'm not sure I could have even written this in the first place...also, this is a translation and they can be tricky in themselves. 'serve well my hatred' is Shakespearian, if I'm not mistaken. What is striking is the confidence, clarity and consistency of the writer. I am unsure how old he was when he wrote this but it's an impressive piece of penmanship. When I cite 'the confidence of the writer'... I was struck by the two verses contained within brackets, for example. There are some that would question 'dungeon of silence' but all of these metaphors are anchored to one theme and therefore, when read as a whole, seem too steadfast and deliberate to be viewed as unoriginal -they read as purposeful and measured, for culumative narrative effect (consistency) . When I read 'The Prince' (hope I've cited that title correctly) I was struck by a Gothic sensibility to the piece and, again, I find it herein. This poem is an example of traditional poetry written with aplomb. (Report) Reply

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  • (5/7/2006 12:47:00 PM)

    This is a meditation on pathological incommunicability, a failing to which the poet is subjected. He describes it as a double who inhabits him, preventing him from expressing his emotions: the wrestler. He requites with brutality any attempt at breaking this obstacle, even made by the beloved one. Only death may ever put an end to this dilemma.
    (Comment by the translator)
    (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, May 7, 2006

Poem Edited: Saturday, May 13, 2006

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