Free Union

Full of startling and vivid imagery, Andre Breton’s 1931 poem Free Union is one of the finest examples of Surrealist poetry as well as a magnificent and powerful declaration of love. It was a major influence on the Beats, particularly Allen Ginsberg.

A free union is a romantic bond between two or more people without legal, civil or religious regulation.

Free Union

My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer
The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut
Whose tongue is an incredible stone
My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child
Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows
My wife whose temples are the slate of greenhouse roofs
With steam on the windows
My wife whose shoulders are champagne
Are fountains that curl from the heads of dolphins over the ice
My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts
Whose fingers are fresh cut hay
My wife with the armpits of martens and beech fruit
And Midsummer Night
That are hedges of privet and resting places for sea snails
Whose arms are of sea foam and a landlocked sea
And a fusion of wheat and a mill
Whose legs are spindles
In the delicate movements of watches and despair
My wife whose calves are sweet with the sap of elders
Whose feet are carved initials
Keyrings and the feet of steeplejacks
My wife whose neck is fine milled barley
Whose throat contains the Valley of God
And encounters in the bed of the maelstrom
My wife whose breasts are of night

And are undersea molehills
And crucibles of rubies
My wife whose breasts are haunted by the ghosts of dew-moistened roses
Whose belly is a fan unfolded in the sunlight
Is a giant talon
My wife with the back of a bird in vertical flight
With a back of quicksilver
And bright lights
My wife whose nape is of smooth worn stone and white chalk
And of a glass slipped through the fingers of someone who has just drunk
My wife with the thighs of a skiff
That are lustrous and feathered like arrows
Stemmed with the light tailbones of a white peacock
And imperceptible balance
My wife whose rump is sandstone and flax
Whose rump is the back of a swan and the spring
My wife with the sex of an iris
A mine and a platypus
With the sex of an alga and old-fashioned candles
My wife with the sex of a mirror
My wife with eyes full of tears
With eyes that are purple armour and a magnetized needle
With eyes of savannahs
With eyes full of water to drink in prisons
My wife with eyes that are forests forever under the axe
My wife with eyes that are the equal of water and air and earth and fire

Translation David Antin

33 thoughts on “Free Union

  1. Mr. Cake, “Free Union” is magnificent, yes, you read that correctly. Such a powerful poem, with so many opposites coming together. You almost have to close your eyes and have someone read it to you so you can be swept along on the visuals alone, not trying to manipulate the words intellectually, but rather watching the images unfold.

    So many favorite lines, but I think this one really grabbed my attention, “Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow”.

    Thank you for sharing this poem, and the photo of Elisa Breton is stunning. ~ Miss Cranes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Miss Cranes, it is a magnificent poem and a landmark on the literature side of Surrealism. The visuals are wonderful and it does have a powerful pull to it. Glad you enjoyed. Now look forward to a post on the man.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is not a love poem as in it Breton does not profess love but with metaphor and symbolism deconstructs the female without repression. Am I the only one who can relate this to the body of work by the romantic poet Neruda? Thank you Mr. Cake, suddenly I am in love with this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Miss Heart for your lovely and excellent comment on this magnificent poem. It also makes me see it in a new light. I can see the influence it has in Neruda and also Paz. Breton is the figure of much unjustified contempt in my opinion. He certainly had flaws and had dictatorial tendencies, but my he could write and he never acted in bad faith. I am glad that you are suddenly in love with this, that’s what writing should make us feel.

      Liked by 1 person

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