Saturday, May 21, 2011


[The next in my series of translations from Blaise Cendrars’ Deux-Neuf poèmes élastiques (19 Elastic Poems)]

I was eating an orange in the shade of an orange tree
When, all of the sudden…
It wasn’t the eruption of Vesuvius
It wasn’t the cloud of locusts, one of Egypt’s ten plagues
Nor Pompeii
It wasn’t resuscitated shrieks of giant mastodons
It wasn’t the Last Trumpet
Nor Pierre Brisset’s frog
When, all of the sudden,
Sparks of simultaneous horizons
My sex

              O Eiffel Tower!
I haven’t shod you in gold
I haven’t made you dance across crystal flagstones
I haven’t pledged you to Python like a Cartheginian virgin
I haven’t clad you in Greek peplum
I’ve never had you straying into the circle of menhirs
I haven’t named you Staff of David or Wood of the True Cross
Lignum Crucis
              O Eiffel Tower!
Giant fireworks of the World’s Fair!
On the Ganges
At Benares
Amongst the onanistic toy tops of Hindu temples
And the florid cries of the Orient’s masses
You’re leaning, graceful Palm tree!
It’s you who in the legendary epoch of the Hebrew people
Confounded the tongues of men
O Babel!
And several thousand years later, it’s you who descended in tongues of fire upon
        the Apostles gathered in your church
In the open sea you’re a mast
And at the North Pole
You dazzle with the magnificenceof the aurora borealis from your wireless telegraph
Lianas entangle the eucalyptus
And you’re floating, old trunk, on the Mississippi
Your yap opens
And a cayman snatches a black man’s thigh
In Europe you’re like a gibbet
(I would like to be the tower, to hang from the Eiffel tower!)
And when the sun sets behind you
Bonnot’s head rolls under the guillotine
In Africa it’s you who are roaming
In Australia you’ve always been taboo
You’re the boat hook Captain Cook used to steer his boatload of adventurers
O celestial probe!
For the Simultaneist Delauney, to whom I dedicate this poem
You’re the brush he dips in light

Gong tom-tom Zanzibar jungle beast X-rays express lancet symphony
You are all
Ancient God
Modern Beast
Solar specter
Subject of my poem
Global tower
Tower in motion

Blaise Cendrars
translation by Jack Hayes © 1990-present

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