unshaded avenue


Claude de Burine
An unshaded avenue
will from now on be my life
where once I spoke love
the way a sheet is spread in the sun
with my absent voyagers
more living than the living
milestones along the way
towards an unknown world
minus passport or time
where words hoist black flags


Une allée sans ombre
sera maintenant ma vie
où je disais amour
comme un étend un drap au soleil
avec mes absents voyageurs
plus vivants que les vivants
bornes sur le chemin
vers un monde inconnu
sans passeport ni temps
où les mots hissent le drapeau noir.

confusing berries


For those confused about berries

The Blackberries
Francis Ponge

On the typographic bushes of the poem down a road leading neither out of things nor to the mind, certain fruits are composed of an agglomeration of spheres plumped with a drop of ink.

Black, rose and khaki together on the bunch, they are more like the sight of a rogue family at its different ages than a strong temptation to picking.
In view of the disproportion of seeds to pulp birds don’t think much of them, so little remains once from beak to anus they’ve been traversed.

But the poet in the course of his professional promenade takes the seed to task: ‘So,’ he tells himself, ‘the patient efforts of a fragile flower on a rebarbative tangle of brambles are by and large successful. Without much else to recommend them – ripe, indeed they are ripe – done, like my poem.’


Les Mûres

Aux buissons typographiques constitués par le poème sur une route qui ne mène hors des choses ni à l’esprit, certains fruits sont formés d’une agglomération de sphères qu’une goutte d’encre remplit.

Noirs, roses et kakis ensemble sur la grappe, ils offrent plutôt le spectacle d’une famille rogue à ses âges divers, qu’une tentation très vive à la cueillette.
Vue la disproportion des pépins à la pulpe les oiseaux les apprécient peu, si peu de chose au fond leur reste quand du bec à l’anus ils en sont traversés.

Mais le poète au cours de sa promenade professionnelle, en prend de la graine à raison : ‘Ainsi donc, se dit-il, réussissent en grand nombre les efforts patients d’une fleur très fragile quoique par un rébarbatif enchevêtrement de ronces défendue. Sans beaucoup d’autres qualités, – mûres, parfaitement elles sont mûres – comme aussi ce poème est fait.’

Photo by Don Lu on Unsplash

infinite murmur of dawn


Birago Diop
Sans souvenirs, sans désirs et sans haine
Je retournerai au pays,
Dans les grandes nuits, dans leur chaude haleine
Enterrer tous mes tourments vieillis.
Sans souvenirs, sans désirs et sans haine.

Je rassemblerai les lambeaux qui restent
De ce que j’appelais jadis mon cœur
Mon cœur qu’a meurtri chacun de vos gestes ;
Et si tout n’est pas mort de sa douleur
J’en rassemblerai les lambeaux qui restent.

Dans le murmure infini de l’aurore
Au gré de ses quatre Vents, alentour
Je jetterai tout ce qui me dévore,
Puis, sans rêves, je dormirai – toujours –
Dans le murmure infini de l’aurore.


Baby steps toward the world


I remember with some trepidation and self-consciousness my very first attempts to read and make sense of French – taking everything so literally at first, taking my time with grasping idiom. It’s always a series of baby steps when transforming your brain to take in and process new languages. To really feel them and live them, you must, to paraphrase the late Derek Walcott, you must change your life. I did not change my life, and thus I’m still no expert, but better recognize the fluidity of language in a way that my grammatical and rigid approach to English never allows for.

One window (or ‘windae’, were we Scots) to crawl through to find meaning in disembodied, lifeless translation drudgery was music. As soon as I realized, as a teenager who wanted nothing more than to run away from my hometown (tout de suite), that much of my favorite music was inspired by literary greatness, I could at least immerse myself in those other worlds. Imagine, though, that somehow in the intervening years, I had completely forgotten the connection between “Les yeux des pauvres” (Baudelaire) and the almost word-for-word treatment by The Cure in “How Beautiful You Are”.

I don’t know if you can imagine how much it was like opening a window to the past, almost like time travel, to be reminded of this and to return in my mind to that time in 1988-9 when this song so deeply moved me to tears and led me to Baudelaire. And how, now in present day, having the memory reawakened when someone sent me the Baudelaire describing it as: “unutterably sad commentary on relationships and the human condition. I love it”, I am moved to find someone else is as deeply affected by the same feelings.

“This is basic”


As I smeared some Boursin cheese onto a giant, round flatbread from Sweden’s Liba Bröd, I suddenly remembered my long-ago introduction to Boursin and a whole lot of other things that are not the norm in America. A French ex who always had Boursin and 1,000 other types of cheese at all times, exclaimed, shocked that I did not always have Boursin, “But… this is basic!” This was one of his most frequently repeated expressions. Every time we jointly encountered something that was normal, everyday and basic to him but unknown to me, I got, “But this is basic!” (pronounced of course like “bey-zik”). There were other things that were basic to me – like knowing that there is oil in the engine of a car – that he did not know.

But what is basic to one is not basic to another. Also, what we are “brainwashed” to think – or not to think independently about – is another thing. I talked to someone about Iran and how he had no idea how nice, forward-thinking and technologically enthusiastic Iranians are. But why would he? That’s not the image Americans get about Iran and its people.

What is basic and should be well-understood to everyone: when writing online SAVE SAVE SAVE. Or write in a Google Docs or Word or something first. I wrote a long and fairly well-researched post about Brexit consequences and lost the whole thing. I have not been so angry at myself in a very long time. Idiotic… but basic.

Luddites eventually cave and ramble in blogs


Moments like these, so very quiet and all alone, climbing into bed, I am not sure what to feel.

I think too much, which leads nowhere. Taking words at face value and wanting to believe them but second guessing belief and churning through aspects of disbelief, not even sure why there would be cause for someone to mislead. The doubt is always there, pervasive and tiring, nagging at me as I try to go to sleep for just a few small hours.

The quiet masking the noise in my brain, an onslaught of rapid-fire thoughts: reflecting on weird things like how people throw around the word “sapiosexual” as if it will win them points. How youth’s wildest women turn out to be soccer moms who throw tame Super Bowl parties. How it’s so French to make references to corporate suicides en masse (thanks to dismally unhappy employees of Renault and Orange offing themselves in short succession). How there is a difference between communicating because you want to tell someone something and communicating just to put a salve on your guilt about how you failed to communicate at some point before. How much time I have wasted trying to be polite and preserve harmony when all I wanted to do was get rid of someone. How frightening people’s eyes can be sometimes. How I may once have been a luddite, but there is no turning back after you embrace technology.

Music falling on the spooky, dark, winter-wonderland drive


I arrived home after three+ hours of driving to trudge through ankle-deep snow – snow is everywhere. No big surprise. I cannot complain – winter did not come until late this year.

To get here to this calm, quiet, still cottage in the woods, I drove through some unpleasant conditions. All day in Gothenburg the temperature hovered around 0C while a snowy-sleet fell all day, creating a dubious, slick concoction on the road. It was a harrowing, treacherous drive at various points.

I actually break the trip into thirds. The first third is all motorway, which was largely clear – but it was extremely windy, trafficky and the further north I drove, the thicker the snow that started to fall (and the thicker the layer that already covered the ground).

The second of the three parts of my trip starts to become more winding and rural but is still not the worst part. There were a few blinding snow flurries, and the wind, particularly when crossing large open fields, blew mountains of snow up from the roadway into the line of vision.

By the final leg of the trip, which consists of considerably more rugged roads, winding, hilly and unkept, snow and wind were whirling, mildly blizzard-like, the roads were covered – no lines visible at all. The two vehicles that got behind me expressed their displeasure and impatience with my caution with some angry tailgating. My caution was warranted – in three different spots on the road, large groups of deer were just standing in the road. If I had not been going as slowly as I was, we’d have just plowed right into them.

There was a time, long ago, that driving in these kinds of conditions would have scared the hell out of me. I have let go of the fear and nervousness and embraced a healthy respect for the force of weather and just moved forward. Good advice for most things.

Yo – here’s another little piece of advice…Reggie Watts – “Fuck Shit Stack

Advice: “Sing your life – any fool can think of words that rhyme

I ask virtually every person I meet to sing for me. Mostly to see what their reaction will be. I like to know what people will do in that kind of unexpected situation. Most people are pretty shy and won’t just break into song. Some need coaxing, such as the shy boy from Karlstad who eventually sang – and once he started could not stop, with lovely patriotic songs about Värmland. Some, like an old ex, would never do it at all. Others burst into enthusiastic singing immediately, such as an Egyptian doctor I once met who sang a long and mournful-sounding song in Arabic; my lovely French friend who regaled me with a most rousing version of one of the worst songs I have ever heard, “Mon fils ma bataille” while waiting on the train platform at Aulnay-sous-Bois after he misguided us and put us on the wrong train to the airport, and then the people who are musicians already – they are always ready to go with a song.

Of late I got to hear the most intentionally whiny, horrible version of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”. I can’t stop thinking about it and laughing. It is especially good because the guy singing it to me is Scottish, and he is snide and sneering about it and puts a special emphasis on the word “world” – making it sound like it has a whole lot more syllables in it than it actually does. My god, I love it.

Migraine films


Tossing and turning and trying to sleep, a massive headache crept in. Since I could not get rid of the headache or fall asleep, I watched a bunch of films, such as:

  • The Governess: not new – I avoided it at the time of its release because I was irrationally against Minnie Driver – about whom I have since changed my mind. Bonus – Tom Wilkinson is in The Governess.
  • War Witch (Rebelle): Pretty devastating film about a girl whose village is destroyed by rebel soldiers. She is kidnapped to become a child soldier. The film is not set somewhere specific but was filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On a sort of unrelated note, the soundtrack was spectacular.
  • Starbuck: A French-Canadian thing about a guy whose prolific sperm donations spawned 500+ offspring, of which more than 100 have formed a class-action lawsuit to force the adoption agency to release their biological father’s identity. His pseudonym through this process is “Starbuck”. Starbuck is a hapless, middle-aged guy, in debt up to his eyeballs and working for the family business, seemingly stuck in a rut he’ll never get out of. Once he knows he is the father of all these people, he begins intervening in some of their lives, and his small acts of kindness start to change his life. All in all, not a bad movie, and it is perfect evidence of how strange French Canadian sounds if you’re used to French French. People say French French is nasal, but this is nasal and whiny somehow.
  • Upstream Color: Unusual film, non-linear narrative. Not even sure how to describe it, and not sure whether I liked it or not.
  • About Sunny: Remembering Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under, it is interesting to see her evolve into this challenging portrayal of a single mother who is neither all good nor all bad – but in her struggle as one of America’s working poor, she is always one step away from a disaster.
  • Arcadia: John Hawkes can be counted on for wide-eyed likeability. He is much less sympathetic in Arcadia, as a man taking his three children across the country to California. By the end of the film, you do gain some sympathy for what the character has gone through – but he’s not the same character we’ve seen in his portrayals of the hapless shoe salesman in Me and You and Everyone We Know or Sol Star in HBO’s Deadwood. Of course Hawkes has a great range. There is actually a balance among all his roles – sometimes he acts in a sleazy, slimy way; sometimes he is a lovable, likeable guy. (Other notable performances include Winter’s Bone and The Sessions).
  • Zodiac: A long docu-drama about the Zodiac killer, who terrorized California in the late 60s and 70s. Great to see Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. and tons of other great actors.
  • Talhotblond: Documentary about people talking — and lying about who they are – online, ending up in one person’s death. It seems crazy – I remember being about 12 or 13 and lying elaborately about my age in order to talk to older people – and to escape the daily reality of my life at the time (this was the pre-internet age). Of course I was 12. Not that that makes it excusable, but I think a kid does not realize the impact these actions might result in. People in the film are adults with life experience and should know better. The people in this documentary are in their 40s. It is quite similar to another documentary I saw (Catfish), which tells almost the same kind of story – without any lethal outcomes.



“Your need a paramour/someone to pluck your eyebrows for…”
-Cinerama,  “Heels”

Years ago (my god, how many of my stories start that way?) my ex-boyfriend (a French guy) was reading a book – I don’t remember what the book title was nor what it was about but suspect it had something to do with language misunderstandings/misheard words and expressions. He came to me with the following quote, “Meanwhile, Richard Parker Bowles, brother of Camilla’s ex-husband, Andrew, said that from the beginning Camilla approved of Charles marrying Diana while she remained his power mower. (Richmond, VA Times-Dispatch, Jan. 1995)” and could not understand what “power mower” was meant to be. It was “paramour”. I still laugh about this sometimes.

I need a power mower!

Would perhaps the understanding of this word have been different depending on the accent of the speaker? I have said it before and will keep saying it – I could listen to a nice Scottish accent every day and love every second of it. Different accents, voices, languages have the power to do something to us, affecting us on a chemical, physiological level, it seems. I suppose this explains why I want to tell people to shut up so often. Haha. Sometimes it is definitely just the sound. I don’t understand more than five words of Hungarian, but I could listen to and not understand any of it and still want to listen to it all day. I love the rhythm and sound of the unfamiliar words strung together melodiously. (It is not always the case that the language we do not understand is heartwarming. The same aforementioned French guy had no love for the incomprehensible Scottish accents we encountered on holiday in Scotland. I had to act as interpreter although he would politely stand there nodding in a reassuring way as B&B hosts told us stories as we got settled in. Only later did he tell me he had feigned understanding and needed translation (truer to say that he demanded, “What in the hell was she talking about?”).