Tashi Aged Four

A little of me goes trotting off
    In a bright red swimsuit.
The ocean’s barely stirring.       
    But a little of her is already
Slipping away without our knowing,
    Since – with me gone –
She will never have run
    So well for anyone else
Out to the sparkling pleat
    The sea folds over anew
Rising towards the spade and bucket
          That mark out our forgetting.

by Jacques Réda

Original poem © Jacques Réda, 2009. Translation © Jennie Feldman and Stephen Romer, 2009.

From Into the Deep Street: Seven Modern French Poets, 1938-2008, edited and translated by Jennie Feldman and Stephen Romer, Anvil Press, 2009.

Anvil Press Poetry writes:

‘Tashi Aged Four’ by Jacques Réda is almost my favourite piece from this anthology of French poetry. Poems about children by their parents or grandparents flirt with sentimentality – but it’s resolutely avoided here, as it is in Ted Hughes’s ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’, or Victor Hugo’s poems in L’art d’être grand-père (The Art of Being a Grandfather).

The poem is simply an elaboration of a fleeting incident: his reaction to seeing his grand-daughter “trotting off” on the beach. From this, with the device of “a little of me” linking with “a little of her”, he weaves a meditation on time and the human condition: one that is light and natural as his passing thoughts. It is done with such firm delicacy – and, I think, tenderness.

The poem is of course a translation, and it’s a testament to the translators’ skill in capturing the poet’s voice that one hardly notices this fact. Jennie Feldman’s translations of a selection of Jacques Réda’s poems, Treading Lightly, was published by Anvil in 2005. You can find out more about that book and Réda here.

Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern. You can read more about Anvil here.

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