Avis à la population (18) May Day in Plague Time

Olivia Sudjic
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Les virologues conseillent de maintenir la « distanciation sociale » alors que Passa Porta vise le «rapprochement social». La maison des littératures tient à garder le contact entre auteurs et lecteurs, c'est pourquoi nous donnons la parole à une sélection d'écrivains belges et internationaux, à qui nous avons demandé de rédiger un « Avis à la population » personnel en cette période singulière.

Olivia Sudjic vit à Londres et en 2017 s'est très vite fait remarquer avec Sympathy, un roman très fort de sens et dérangeant sur la communication numérique, l'obsession et l'intimité. Au printemps 2018, Sudjic était autrice en résidence à Passa Porta, une expérience qui a laissé des traces incontestables dans son livre d'essai Exposure. Dans le poème qu'elle nous a livré pour notre série "Avis à la population", elle parle de la vie dans un Londres "exposé". Bientôt, vous trouverez également la traduction française dans notre magazine.


May Day in Plague Time

May Day in plague time
Leaving my flat
I lose muscle memory
Like I lose passwords, forgetting I cleared history
My shadow dislocates on the kerb
Blue gloves with ghost fingers
Shedding invisibly
I step off the pavement — into nothing

Suspense is old news warmed up
Now it is summer, revision season without end
Young royals make zoom calls
And police dye the water the colour of hearses
Polyglot Prime Minister speaks his dead languages
Quotes Cicero
Makes sacrifices
Of unskilled workers
Refrigerated vans, some carrying bodies
Wait at unpeopled crossings

Lambeth walking, straight talking city in negative
Bus shelter advertising cum archaeology
cum has been around for centuries, so it’s not necessary to italicise it
I come to the river for rhetoric
Bird parliament
St Thomas’ Hospital
Like our blonde body politic
Gold sovereign, now tender
Baby daddy is clapping so he has immunity

Under railway arches lined with mosaics
Past Europe: A Prophecy
That glittering snake likes to lie in the sun
Now it seeks cover, cold-blooded
You know the Blakes sat here naked, under their apple tree
Catherine the ‘clean-hands operative’ when William’s were inky
Illiterate, she signed her wedding contract ‘X’, like a ballot
Out of the tunnel and into the light again

An ambulance rests
Soft head on the wheel
Behind railings they are still sleeping in tents
The sights are the same but my senses are changing

In Archbishop’s Park the playground is netted
An alien like in the Pentagon videos
Another headline is breaking, speaking in tongues
Invisible friends call to each other
So much birdsong in urban environments

Is it only that we have been muted
Or are there more birds singing than sirens?
We’re no prophets — stopping to listen without understanding
Still as the sun sets behind Old Paradise Gardens
Stop working, pens down

My Yugoslav grandmother left me a small jug
Held in common
No other instruction
It was an instrument for speaking the language of birds
Learn a new language this lockdown!
Fill this with water and put your lips to it

Olivia Sudjic, May 2020

Olivia Sudjic