Après le pas

in every place
we will cut out
to release
the light
from the walls

Silvia Baron Supervielle
from Après le pas (1997)
translated by Jason Weiss



l'obscur travaille

I didn't know that the window
opened the world
opened my body to the world
that the window was such
a joy
that my entire body
is the recognition
in which there is no longer any difference
between closed eyes
and open eyes

(je ne savais pas que la fenêtre 
ouvrait le monde
ouvrait mon corps au monde
que la fenêtre était une
telle joie
que tout mon corps
en est la reconnaissance
où il n’y a plus de différence
entre les yeux fermés
et les yeux ouverts)

22 janvier, à Paul Brousse

Henri Meschonnic, L’Obscur travaille, Arfuyen, 2011, pg. 78



zen window

To shake off the dust of human ambition
I sit on moss in Zen robes of stillness,
While through the window,
In the setting sun of late autumn,
Falling leaves whirl and drop to the stone dais.

Tesshu Tokusai


day (le jour)

Odilon Redon, lithograph, 1891



elementary tears (ii)

That which breaks the voice by interrupting the stream of its words still belongs to it. Such is the case with tears, which speak without naming anything, without saying anything, in the pure effusion of meaning. We are no longer the masters of this meaning; it passes through us to give itself and lose itself. At the peak of this trembling glimmer, at the very height of tears and their effacement, there would be weeping without knowing that one weeps; we would not even let our tears flow, as if we were still making a decision to cry or not, nor would we any longer weep out of sadness or out of joy, but instead simply weep sadness or joy—weep in the oblivion of our weeping. Thus perhaps our tears, in truly giving way, would gather in themselves the sadness or the joy of that which cannot weep, and it would be the world that shines in their ephemeral crystal. 

Are there tears that belong to no one, tears without anyone who weeps? Sometimes on window panes the cloud of vapor ceases to be a veil that is flat, even, and somnolent in the indefinite clarity, and instead, as it carries on the effort of its condensation, animating itself into coalescence, animating itself with coalescence, it begins to form tears. It is beautiful that they express nothing—it removes all limitation and all imitation from them. We speak commonly of a face veiled by tears, which is not true: a face can be twisted with fear, spite, rage, or disappointment, but what is more unbearably naked than a face in tears? As to the streaming of tears on window panes: it opens days, arranges cracks of light as hazardous as they are precise, allows a glimpse of that which an instant before was hidden. When the panes weep, the world is purer.

Jean-Louis Chrétien, from Elementary Tears
Hand-to-Hand, pg. 152



museum window

"I noticed that the large windows between the paintings, in the Musée d'Art Moderne, interested me more than the art exhibited. From then on, painting as I had known it was finished for me."

Ellsworth Kelly, Window, Museum of Modern Art, Paris 1949, Oil on wood and canvas, two joined panels, 128,3 x 49,5 cm, Collection of the artist




Minor White, Beginnings, Frosted Window (Rochester, New York), 1962 - gelatin silver print.




Not all windows
are windows.

Even a window
is not always
a window.

And sometimes
something that isn't
a window
is the best window.

image: Robert Motherwell, Open Study No. 3, 1968 Charcoal on paper



The Open series is also crucial for a complete understanding of Motherwell's work. He began the Opens in 1967, responding to the impulse in European and American visual arts to regard painting as a window. The notion of the window had figured into his work from the beginning of his career, as early as 1941, when he painted the Museum's Spanish Picture with Window. The Open series represents Motherwell's joining of his longstanding interest in the window with his new notion of how to a make a painting. Each of the Open works, which are characterized by sparse visual components and serene, uncomplicated color, contain a charcoal-delineated rectangle (or three-sided rectangle), which the artist acknowledged partially derived from whitewashed adobe facades. He said, "I've always loved Spanish houses with those big, plain, stark facades, with a dark doorway cut out of the expanse, or say, two windows beautifully cut out of a magnificent whitewashed wall." (from Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth)

Robert Motherwell
top: Open No.24 in Variations of Orange
bottom: Untitled (Open in Yellow, Black and Blue), 1971



the mirror too is a window


She opened the shutters. She hung the sheets over the sill.
She saw the day.
A bird looked at her straight in the eyes. "I am alone," she whispered.
"I am alive." She entered the room. The mirror too is a window.
If I jump from it I will fall into my arms.

Yannis Ritsos
translated from the Greek by Nikos Stangos

(courtesy of erin)




When sleep is running away from a man, and the man lies on his bed, dumbly stretching out his legs, while nearby a clock ticks on the bed stand and sleep is running away from the clock, then it seems to the man that an immense black window opens wide before him and that his thin little gray human soul is going to fly out through this window and his lifeless body will stay lying on the bed, dumbly stretching out its legs, and the clock will ring its quiet bell: “Yet another man has fallen asleep,” at that moment the immense and utterly black window will swing shut with a bang. 

A man by the last name of Oknov was lying on his bed, dumbly stretching out his legs, trying to fall asleep. But sleep was running away from Oknov. Oknov lay with his eyes open and frightening thoughts knocked inside his increasingly wooden head.     

March 8, 1938

Daniil Kharms
tr. Matvei Yankelevich



as if nothing (august 6th)

Writing the date, he knows that he could not
inhabit it, that it is already too late.
Each object disappears into an expectancy
in which he does not see his own.
A pale sun touches the window, 
enhances the geometry of the shadows

Écrivant la date, il sait qu’il ne pourra
l’habiter, qu’il est déjà trop tard.
Chaque objet se perd dans une attente
où il ne voit pas la sienne.
Un pâle soleil touche la vitre,
avive la géométrie des ombres

from Comme si de rien by Jacques Ancet
tr. Michael Tweed



the window at the end of the corridor

The sky, the landscape, the river:
the image at the end of the corridor.
Left and right in the apartment;
The fire extinguisher. The hum of the elevator.
The time after the offices close. Averted faces,
no word and no tenderness.
Someone will begin it,
and going by his door
and going farther, passed the image,
out of the room, in flight.

Jürgen Becker
tr. Okla Elliott




with a window
even closed
especially closed
one always finds
oneself outside



from inscriptions 1944-1956

Again cool windy days,
grey skies and sidewalks black with rain;
again the solitary walks,
and a quiet room in which to sit and work
and see mankind—
only through a windowpane.

Charles Reznikoff



elementary tears

The Czech photographer Josef Sudek left behind a body of work in which the poetics of the window takes on its full intensity. A poetics of the window, but also of the pane, of the clouded pane. At issue here is not simply a journey around his room, but an immobile journey across this vaporous and peacefully lachrymal veil. Sudek photographs branches, trees, barred fences, and houses, each glimpsed from the window of his studio. The focus is on that which veils, the cloud upon the pane of glass, and what one glimpses behind this veil reinforces its indefiniteness. Sometimes, these are only incoordinate fragments. But at other times, the landscape, instead of dissolving into evanescence and blur, is simplified into masses worthy of an energetic charcoal drawing, and takes on a paramnesic force of affirmation, as if we had already seen these trees and these houses, as if we too lived day in day out in front of them and with them. 

Because the frames and sills of the windows do not appear, but only the pane, with its tears tracing their streaks sometimes darker, sometimes lighter, the pane itself becomes like a photographic plate, a photograph to the second power. The minute precision that the vapor confers upon the vision of the plane of the glass gives the photograph a certain mural-like aspect, and the depth beyond that is guessed at is denied as much as affirmed. Does the clouded pane show us a fragment of landscape become simpler and more sober, or is it rather the cloud that shows us the pane, which is to say, shows us that which normally one does not see? The pane of glass itself becomes the site where light and shadows write themselves, and it manifests itself as such. The means of vision becomes the object of vision. And, in certain of Josef Sudek’s shots, he alone is given to be seen. 

The relations of interior and exterior are thus powerfully disturbed. As a general rule, the function of a pane of glass is at the same time to unite and to distinguish interior and exterior: it allows being inside and outside all at once, seeing the exterior while remaining in the interior. The vapor veils this transparency, makes a curtain of the pane, and thus, in a certain way, closes the interior upon itself. But in Sudek’s work, nothing of this interior space appears, not even a sill or a frame, and the interior is no longer a dwelling place, but only a wide-open gaze, pure vision. And the veiled exterior, glimpsed with difficulty, is laden with a patient, slow secret. Hasn’t the exterior become intimate, while the interior is no more than a gaze outside of itself, passed entirely into what it sees? Sudek shows tears that unveil, tears belonging to no one upon the humble surface of windowpanes. These are not yet elementary tears, cosmic tears. Is there such a thing?

Jean-Louis Chrétien, Hand to Hand, pp. 153-4
photo: Josef Sudek



autumn of the patriarch

Over the weekend the vultures got into the presidential palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez




In my head there are several windows, that I do know, but perhaps it is always the same one, open variously on the parading universe. 

Samuel Beckett, Molloy



la lumière et les cendres

it is there before your gaze
the room empty the day
paused on the window
in your eyes you see what
you never could believe coming
you blink are going to speak
but the words cannot be found

c’est là devant on regarde
la pièce vide le jour
arrêté sur la fenêtre
dans les yeux on voit venir
ce qu’on a jamais pu croire
on bat des cils on va dire
mais comment dire on se tait

Jacques Ancet, from La lumière et les cendres
tr. Michael Tweed



a kind of momentary Japanese effect

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

Atelierul era îmbibat de mireasma bogată a rozelor şi în clipa în care briza uşoară de vară 
flutură printre crengile copacilor, prin uşa deschisă pătrunse mirosul greu al liliacului şi 
parfumul ceva mai subtil al florilor roz de spin. 

Din colţul divanului învelit în covoraşe persane, unde stătea fumînd ţigară după ţigară, 
după cum îi era obiceiul, lordul Henry Wotton abia zărea strălucirea florilor galbene şi dulci ca 
mierea din salcîmul ale cărui crengi tremurau sub povara propriei frumuseţi intense, ca de 
flacără. Cînd şi cînd umbrele fantastice ale păsărilor în zbor treceau repede de-a lungul 
draperiilor lungi din mătase grea, cafenie, trase peste fereastra imensă, creînd un fel de efect 
japonez, de instantaneu. Acest lucru îl făcea să se gîndească la acei pictori cu chipul palid, de 
jad din Tokio, care printr-o artă, în sine imobilă, încearcă să transmită senzaţia de rapiditate şi 
mişcare. Murmurul albinelor care îşi croiau drumul înghesuindu- se una în alta prin iarba 
înaltă, netunsă, sau mişcîndu-se în cerc, cu o insistenţă monotonă în jurul ţepilor aurii prăfuiţi 
ai tufelor de caprifoi răsfirate, crea o senzaţie de nemişcare şi mai apăsătoare. Zgomotul stins al 
Londrei ajungea acolo asemenea sunetului în surdină al unei orgi depărtate. 




When you vanish up the staircase
Of the octaves

I know there is a window
Opening into
A garden
Where the tern, restless
On a plum branch

Prepares to migrate
Down the blue curve

Of that vein
Deep in your neck.

(post via Paris Review)




top: June 7, 1971  Joseph Cornell through garage window
bottom: Cornell in window, 1972
Harry Roseman



staring, hypnotized, into the eyes of my reflection

Before they built the apartment blocks across the street, before everything was screened off and suffocating, I used to watch Bucharest through the night from the triple window in my room above Ştefan cel Mare. The window usually reflected the room’s cheap furniture—a bedroom set of yellowed wood, a dresser and mirror, a table with some aloe and asparagus in clay pots, a chandelier with globes of green glass, one of which had been chipped long ago. The reflected yellow space turned even yellower as it deepened into the enormous window, and I, a thin, sickly adolescent in torn pajamas and a stretched-out vest, would spend the long afternoon perched on the small cabinet in the bedstead, staring, hypnotized, into the eyes of my reflection in the transparent glass.

from Mircea Cartarescu's novel The Blinding, tr. Sean Cotter




high windows

When I see a couple of kids
And guess he’s fucking her and she’s   
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,   
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—   
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if   
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,   
And thought, That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide   
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide   
Like free bloody birds. And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:   
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Philip Larkin



Greenwich Village, NYC

André Kertész, Greenwich Village, New York (woman reading in fire escape window), 1963