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That first step into the light will cost you—
finding out the show started without you:
the waltz of the hills, the flight of the swifts,
the greening water and the fire of the rose, all this
and all the rest that you are aching for now,
you who were sleeping on the belly of the dead
among the roughnecks and working girls.


The hardest thing is taking the first step into the light
when all the crutches in the world have been wrenched away
and the only thing left in the mirror before your eyes
is the head of a dirty thief, which suddenly reveals to you
the underside of the cards of your own life, you old cheater,
you who always believed the game was won from the first shuffle
and now here you are alone at day-break, stripped of everything
in a no-name alley in a town which doesn't even exist.


What still hurts the most is that first step
into the fire of the morning, when it all started
without you: the rows of seats set out, the grass cut

and there in the middle the village fool has just propped
his ladder for his little thefts. For him, the die is cast,
this innocent, who steals green nuts and gives them away

to children to see them laugh and make faces.
You, you’ve stayed too long at the mercy of words
even to dare look towards heaven full-faced and defenseless

then glide gracefully down like a bird.

Guy Goffette (1947-2024), was born in Jamoigne (Belgium), and was a poet, writer, and editor at Gallimard. He lived in Paris and published over thirty books (poetry, novels, and essays). His work was translated into over 25 languages, and included Forever Nude in the UK (Vintage Books) and Charlestown Blues in the USA (University of Chicago Press). He won numerous prizes, including the Prix Goncourt and the Grand prix de poésie de l’Académie française