Translation p. 10


With my eyes closed I can smell what country I’m in
And I can hear what kind of train is going by
European trains are in 4/4 while the Asian ones are 5/4 or 7/4
Others go humming along are like lullabies
And there are some whose wheels’ monotone reminds me of the heavy
   prose of Maeterlinck
I deciphered all the garbled texts of the wheels and united the scattered
   elements of a violent beauty
Which I possess
And which drives me

Tsitsihar and Harbin
That’s as far as I go
The last station
I stepped off the train at Harbin a minute after they had set fire to the
   Red Cross office.

O Paris
Great warm hearth with the intersecting embers of your streets and your
   old houses leaning over them for warmth
Like grandmothers
And here are posters in red in green all colors like my past in a word
Yellow the proud color of the novels of France
In big cities I like to rub elbows with the buses as they go by
Those of the Saint-Germain–Montmartre line that carry me to the
   assault of the Butte
The motors bellow like golden bulls
The cows of dusk graze on Sacré-Cœur
O Paris
Main station where desires arrive at the crossroads of restlessness
Now only the paint store has a little light on its door
The International Pullman and Great European Express Company has
   sent me its brochure
It’s the most beautiful church in the world
I have friends who surround me like guardrails
They’re afraid that when I leave I’ll never come back
All the women I’ve ever known appear around me on the horizon
Holding out their arms and looking like sad lighthouses in the rain
Bella, Agnès, Catherine, and the mother of my son in Italy
And she who is the mother of my love in America
Sometimes the cry of a whistle tears me apart
Over in Manchuria a belly is still heaving, as if giving birth
I wish
I wish I’d never started traveling
Tonight a great love is driving me out of my mind
And I can’t help thinking about little Jeanne of France.
It’s through a sad night that I’ve written this poem in her honor
The little prostitute
I’m sad so sad
I’m going to the Lapin Agile to remember my lost youth again
Have a few drinks
And come back home alone


City of the incomparable Tower the great Gibbet and the Wheel

Paris, 1913

—Translated by Ron Padgett

Detail of Blaise Cendrars (1887–1961), La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France. Illustrations by Sonia Delaunay-Terk (Paris: Éditions des hommes nouveaux, 1913). Gift of Dr. Gail Levin, 2021; PML 198726 © Blaise Cendrars/Succession Cendrars. © Pracusa 20230412