Translation p. 7


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

I feel so sorry for you come here I’m going to tell you a story
Come get in my bed
Put your head on my shoulder
I’m going to tell you a story . . .

Oh come on!

It’s always spring in the Fijis
You lay around
The lovers swoon in the high grass and hot syphilis drifts among the
   banana trees
Come to the lost islands of the Pacific!
Names like Phoenix, the Marquesas
Borneo and Java
And Celebes shaped like a cat

We can’t go to Japan
Come to Mexico!
Tulip trees flourish on the high plateaus
Clinging vines hang down like hair from the sun
It’s as if the brushes and palette of a painter
Had used colors stunning as gongs—
Rousseau was there
It dazzled him forever
It’s a great bird country
The bird of paradise the lyre bird
The toucan the mockingbird
And the hummingbird nests in the heart of the black lily
We’ll love each other in the majestic ruins of an Aztec temple
You’ll be my idol
Splashed with color childish slightly ugly and really weird
Oh come!

If you want we’ll take a plane and fly over the land of the thousand lakes
The nights there are outrageously long
The sound of the engine will scare our prehistoric ancestors
I’ll land
And build a hangar out of mammoth fossils
The primitive fire will rekindle our poor love
And we’ll settle down like ordinary folks near the pole
Oh come!

Jeanne Jeannette my pet my pot my poot
My me mama poopoo Peru
Peepee cuckoo
Ding ding my dong
Sweet pea sweet flea sweet bumblebee
Chickadee beddy-bye
Little dove my love
Little cookie-nookie

She’s asleep
And she hasn’t taken in a thing the whole way
All those faces glimpsed in the stations
All the clocks
Paris time Berlin time Saint Petersburg time all those stations’ times
And at Ufa the bloody face of the cannoneer
And the absurdly luminous dial at Grodno
And the train moving forward endlessly
Every morning you set your watch ahead
The train moves forward and the sun loses time
It’s no use! I hear the bells
The big bell at Notre-Dame
The sharp bell at the Louvre that rang on Saint Bartholomew’s Day
The rusty carillons of Bruges-the-Dead
The electric bells of the New York Public Library

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