Saturday, June 4, 2011


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


The windows of my poetry are wide open on the boulevards and in their display cases
Gemstones of light
Listen to the limousines’ violins and the Linotypes xylophones
The scrub painter rubs his hands on the sky’s towel
Everything’s stained with color
And the hats of the women who pass by are comets in the evenings conflagration

There’s no more unity
All the clocks now point to midnight after having been set back ten minutes
There’s no more time.
There’s no more money.
In the Assembly
They’re watering down the raw materials’ marvelous elements

At the bar
The blue collar workmen are drinking red wine
Every Saturday gamehen
They’re playing
They’re betting
From time to time a gangster passes by in a car
Or a child plays with l’Arc de Triomphe…
I advise Mr Big to put his protegees up at the Eiffel Tower.

Change of ownership
The Holy Spirit on sale in the smallest shops
I read with rapture swarms of calico
Of poppies
It’s only the pumice-stones of the Sorbonne which have never bloomed
The Samaritan sign plows through the Seine
And over by Saint-Séverin
I hear
The streetcars’ relentless bells

It’s raining electric light bulbs
Mountrouge East Station Metro North South water-buses world
All’s halo
Rue de Buci they’re hawking L’Intransigeant and Paris-Sport
The sky’s airdrome is now, ablaze, a Cimabue painting
When in the foreground
Men are
And are smoking, factory chimneys

Blaise Cendrars
translation Jack Hayes
© 1990-present


  1. Beautiful. I love the first stanza especially. It's a dazzling magical painting. I love the wide open windows of poetry, the painter rubbing his hands "on the sky's towel"... the hats as comets. Invention, imagination and genius. Great work.

  2. Hi HKatz: Cendrars was a great poet, & this is one of my favorites by him. Glad my humble translation conveyed some of the magic--thanks!


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