“At the very end of the little wood the vast planet begins”

Three Epithalamia

Georges Perec

On this beautiful Saturday in May
Sophie has married Michel
and Michel has married Sophie

They have married
and they are now together
like Aucassin and Nicolette
and like nut cake and honey
like hand and piano
table and chair
soup and ladle
tench and hook
science and doubt
pen and drawing
dove and millet
hospital and silence
candle and bed warmer
camomile tea and madeleine
and even couscous and chick peas

It’s a delectable morning
the sun lights up the countryside
bees are gathering honey
a butterfly delicately alights by a mimosa
sheep are bleating
in the distance bells are ringing
everything is calm and peaceful

At the very end of the little wood the vast planet begins
its lakes its oceans its steppes
its hills its plains its oases
its sand dunes
its palaces its museums its islands its ports of call
its lovely automobiles glistening in the rain
its white-bonneted Salvationists singing carols on Christmas Eve
its bowlered worthies in conference at the tabac on Place Saint
Sulpice
its mustachio’d sea captains exuding patchouli and lilac
its tennis champions hugging at the end of a match
its Indians with their calumet seated by a sandalwood totem pole
its mountain climbers attacking Popocatapetl
its eager canoeists paddling down the Mississippi
its Anabaptists mischievously nodding their heads as they discuss
the Bible
its little Balinese women dancing on cocoa plantations
its philosophers in peaked caps arguing about Condillac’s ideas
in outmoded tea rooms
its pin-up girls in bathing suits astride docile elephants
its impassive Londoners bidding a no-trump little slam

But here the sky is blue
Let’s forget the weight of the world
a bird is singing at the very top of the house
cats and dogs drowse by the fireplace
where a huge log is slowly burning up
You hear the ticking of the clock

This little poem
where only simple words have been used
words like daisy and broomstick
like lady-bird and cream sauce
like croissant and nonchalance
and not words like palimpsest, pitchblende, cumulonimbus,
decalcomania, stethoscope, machicolation, or
anticonstitutionally
has been specially composed
on the occasion of these nuptials

Let us wish Sophie and Michel
years and years of rejoicing

like the thousand years gone by
in which Philemon and Baucis
each May are born into the world
she as linden, he as oak

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