Translation p. 4


Tears rise from the bottom of my heart
If I think, O Love, of my mistress;
She is but a child, whom I found, so pale
And pure, in the back of a bordel.

She is but a fair child who laughs,
Is sad, doesn’t smile, and never cries;
But the poet’s flower, the silver lily, trembles
When she lets you see it in the depths of her eyes.

She is sweet, says nothing you can hear,
With a long, slow trembling when you draw near;
But when I come to her, from here, from there,
She takes a step and shuts her eyes—and takes a step.

For she is my love and other women
Are but big bodies of flame sheathed in gold,
My poor friend is so alone
She is stark naked, has no body—she’s too poor.

She is but an innocent flower, all thin and delicate,
The poet’s flower, a pathetic silver lily,
So cold, so alone, and so wilted now
That tears rise if I think of her heart.

And this night is like a hundred thousand others when a train slips
   through the night
—Comets fall—
And a man and a woman, no matter how young, enjoy making love.

The sky is like the torn tent of a rundown circus in a little fishing village
In Flanders
The sun like a smoking lamp
And way up on the trapeze a woman does a crescent moon
The clarinet the trumpet a shrill flute a beat-up drum
And here is my cradle
My cradle
It was always near the piano when my mother, like Madame Bovary,
   played Beethoven’s sonatas
I spent my childhood in the hanging gardens of Babylon
Playing hooky, following the trains as they pulled out of the stations
Now I’ve made the trains follow me
Basel – Timbuktu
I’ve played the horses at tracks like Auteuil and Longchamps
Paris – New York
Now the trains run alongside me
Madrid – Stockholm
Lost it all at the gay pari-mutuel
Patagonia is what’s left, Patagonia, which befits my immense sadness,
   Patagonia and a trip to the South Seas

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