Translation p. 5


I’m on the road
I’ve always been on the road
I’m on the road with little Jeanne of France
The train does a somersault and lands on all fours
The train lands on its wheels
The train always lands on all its wheels

“Blaise, say, are we really a long way from Montmartre?”

A long way, Jeanne, you’ve been rolling along for seven days
You’re a long way from Montmartre, from the Butte that brought you
   up, from the Sacré-Cœur you snuggled up to
Paris has disappeared with its enormous blaze
Everything gone except cinders flying back
The rain falling
The peat bogs swelling
Siberia turning
Heavy sheets of snow piling up
And the bell of madness that jingles like a final desire in the bluish air
The train throbs at the heart of the leaden horizon
And your desolation snickers . . .

“Say, Blaise, are we really a long way from Montmartre?”

Forget your troubles
All the cracked and leaning stations along the way
The telegraph lines they hang from
The grimacing poles that reach out to strangle them
The world stretches out elongates and snaps back like an accordion in
   the hands of a raging sadist
Wild locomotives fly through rips in the sky
And in the holes
The dizzying wheels the mouths the voices
And the dogs of misery that bark at our heels
The demons are unleashed
Scrap iron
Everything clanks
Slightly off
The clickety-clack of the wheels
We are a storm in the skull of a deaf man . . .

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