BC POEMS

In 2015 Natalie d’Arbeloff and I had our collaborative work on Blaise Cendrars’ ‘La Prose du Transsiberien et de la Petite Jehanne de France’ published by the Old Stile Press, I translated the epic poem and Natalie created the illustrations. The ‘Trans-Sib’ went through 10 drafts before I settled on the version that went, with Natalie’s illustrations, to Nicolas Mcdowell at Old Stile for hand-printing.

For panoramic sweep and sheer chutzpah, Blaise Cendrars never quite matched the ‘Trans-Sib’. But his stature as an observational, surreal and quirkily lyrical poet is substantiated by much of his other output. Here are some translations of shorter poems by Cendrars. Most of them are still going through drafts and so are likely to be further tweaked.

images

CHINKS

Sea vistas
Waterfalls
Trees long-haired with moss
Heavy rubbery glossy leaves
Glazed sun
High burnished heat
Glistening
I’ve stopped listening to the urgent voices of my friends discussing
The news that I brought from Paris
On both sides of the train close by or along the banks of
The distant valley
The forest is there watching me unsettling me enticing me like
a mummy’s mask
I watch back
Never the flicker of an eye.

:::

CONTRASTS

The windows of my poetry are open wide to the
boulevards and their shop window displays
Radiate
The jewels of the light
Listen to the violins of the limousines and the xylophones of the
printing presses
The painter wipes his hands on the towel of the sky
Everywhere swatches of colour
And the hats of the passing women are comets
across the blazing evening.

:::

NEWSPAPER

Christ
There goes another year in which I haven’t thought about You
Since I wrote my penultimate poem Easter
My life has changed so much
But I’m the same as ever
I still want to become a painter

Here are the pictures that I’ve done displayed up on my walls this evening.
They reveal to me strange perspectives into myself that make me think of You.

Christ
Life
See what I’ve unearthed

My paintings make me uneasy
I’m too passionate
Everything is tinted orange.

I’ve passed a sad day thinking about my friends
And reading the newspaper
Christ
A life crucified in this newspaper stretched wide that I hold at arms’ length.
Wingspans
Rockets
Frenzy
Cries
Like a crashing aeroplane
That’s me.
Passion
Fire
Serial
Newspaper
No matter how much you try to stay silent
Sometimes you have to cry out
I’m the other way
Too sensitive

:::

STARRY NIGHT

I’ve spent most of the night on deck
The familiar stars from these latitudes stretch stretch across the sky
The Pole Star slips further and further towards the northern horizon Orion – my constellation – is at its zenith
The Milky Way like a luminous fissure expands each night

The Great Chariot is a smudge of fog

The south darkens increasingly before us

I can’t wait for the appearance of the Southern Cross in the east
To divert my impatience Venus has doubled in size and quintupled in brilliance

like the moon she trails her light across the water
Tonight I watched the falling of a shooting star

:::

KODAK

WEST

I. ROOF GARDEN

For weeks the elevators hoisted hoisted
crates crates of compost
Finally
By dint of cash and patience
The shrubbery is blooming
The lawns are a tender green
A vital spring gushes forth between the rhododendrons and the
camellias
At the summit of this edifice this edifice of bricks and steel
The evening
Waiters grave like diplomats clad in
white lean out across the chasm of the town
And the flowerbeds are alight like a million tiny multicoloured
lanterns
I believe Madame murmured the young man with a voice
tremulous with suppressed passion
I believe that we might do very well here
And with a sweeping gesture he displayed the vast sea
Its ebb and flow
The riding lights of its huge ships
The towering Statue of Liberty
And the mighty panorama of the city crisscrossed with shadowy
perpendiculars and glaring light

The old philosopher and the two billionaires are alone on
the terrace
Beautiful garden
Great banks of flowers
Starry sky
The three old men stand silently listening
to the laughter and the happy voices rising
from the bright windows
And to the murmurous song of the sea that mingles with
the gramophone

II. ON THE HUDSON

The electric dinghy glides noiselessly between the multitudes
of ships at anchor in the immense estuary flying
the flags of every nation of the world
The great clippers loaded high with Canadian timber
furl their huge sails
The iron steamers belch out torrents of black
smoke
A population of dockers from every race in the
world bustles within the turmoil of sirens and steam-whistles
from factory and train
The elegant launch is fashioned entirely from teak
Rising from its centre is a cabin resembling that
of a Venetian gondola

III. AMPHITRYON

After dinner served in the winter garden amongst
the groves of lemon trees jasmine orchids
There is a ball on the lawns of the illuminated park
But the principal attraction is the gifts sent
to Miss Isadora
Of particular note is a ‘pigeon’s blood’ ruby
of a size and brilliance beyond compare
None of the young girls present possesses a gem
to equal it
Elegantly dressed
And vigilant detectives mingle with the crowding guests
to watch over and protect this jewel

IV. OFFICE

Radiators and ventilators running on industrial gas
Twelve telephones and five wireless radio points
Marvellous electrical filing systems containing
countless industrial and scientific dossiers on
a multitude of subjects
The billionaire only feels truly at home within
this place of work
The huge windows look out over the park and the city
Each evening the mercury vapour lights shed
a soft blueish glow
It is within this place that demands to sell and to buy
sometimes topple stock markets across the wide world

V. YOUNG GIRL

A light dress in crepe de chine
The young girl
Elegance and wealth
Hair a tawny blonde within which shines a string of pearls
A face composed and calm reflecting both sincerity
and kindness
Her wide sea-blue eyes almost green are
clear and bold
She has about her the special downy-fresh and roseate tint that
suggests the privilege of the young American.

VI. YOUNG MAN

He’s the Beau Brummel of Fifth Avenue
Cloth-of-gold tie stippled with a froth of diamonds
A suit in metallic fabric pink and violet
Ankle-boots in genuine sharkskin each
button a tiny black pearl
He flaunts pyjamas of asbestos flannel another suit
fashioned out of glass a crocodile-skin waistcoat
His valet scrubs his gold coins with soap
He packs only brand new scented banknotes in
his wallet

VII. WORK

Criminals have just blown up the railway embankment bridge
The carriages have caught fire at the bottom of the valley
The injured swim in the boiling water seething from the
ruptured engine
Human torches run amongst the wreckage and the
jets of steam
Other coaches dangle suspended 60 meters up
Men carrying electric torches and acetylene cutters
clamber down the valley track
And in silence the rescue is swiftly organised
In the shelter of the bulrushes the reeds the willow the
waterbirds create a happy commotion
Dawn is long in breaking
But already a team of one hundred carpenters summoned by
telegraph arrive by special train to begin to reconstruct the bridge
Bang bang-bang
Pass me the nails

VIII. TRESTLE-WORK

If you come across a certain river or a deep valley
you’ll cross it by a wooden bridge until such time that
company revenue permits construction of one
in stone or iron
American carpenters are without peer in
the art of constructing these bridges
You begin by laying down a hard rock bed
Then you erect your first trestle
Which will support a second then a third the
a fourth
As many as it takes to reach the level of the bank
On the last trestle two beams
On the last two beams two rails
These audacious structures are neither reinforced by
a St Andrew’s cross nor by iron T-bars
The whole is held together just by a few supports and a few
bolts which determine the gauging of the trestles
And it’s what it is
It’s a bridge
A beautiful bridge

Amedeo_Modigliani_035-3

BLAISE CENDRARS MEETS MODIGLIANI. A film short from 1953.

 

About Dick Jones

I'm a post-retirement Drama teacher, currently working part-time. I have a grown-up son and daughter, three grandchildren and three young children from my second marriage. I write - principally poetry but prose too, both fitfully published. My poetry collection Ancient Lights is published by Phoenicia Publishing (www.phoeniciapublishing.com) and my translation of Blaise Cendrars' 'Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne from France' (illustrated by my friend, the artist, writer and long-time blogger Natalie d'Arbeloff) is published by Old Stile Press (www.oldstilepress.com). I play bass guitar & bouzouki in the song-based acoustic/electric trio Moorby Jones, playing entirely original material (https://www.facebook.com/moorbyjones?ref=aymt_homepage_panel + http://www.moorbyjones.net/). I play the same instruments in the Celtic/English/Americana/acoustic ambient trio Escher's Dream. (https://www.facebook.com/Eschers-Dream-102838891097545/?modal=admin_todo_tour) I have a dormant blog with posts going back to 2004 at Dick Jones' Patteran Pages - http://patteran.typepad.com - and I'm a radio ham. My callsign is G0EUV
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  1. Pingback: Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 43 – Via Negativa

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