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Poetry From the April 2011 issue: Writing from Quebec



The middle of winter
In the cold light
Icy waltz on the sidewalks of Montreal.
Dolorès is in pain.
Wearing her cheap, musty-smelling fur.
Her large white cigarette in one hand
Scarcely lit
The red lighter clutched in the other.
Her stiff leg set down in pain.
Near the bus terminal.
On Saint-Hubert, between Ontario and Sainte-Catherine.
Before or after the illuminated glass of beer.
Between the makeshift motels
Where black smoke chokes the lungs
Where hard veins warm up
On a mattress of abandonment.
A coat of anger, thrown on her shoulders.
Her feet swimming in plastic boots
A hospital jacket, an orange tuque:
A smell of death.
Her eyes like two rocks.
Over-excited with the snow
She rages:
People—I’m scared—People
Blacks—Junkies—Young people—The others
Downtown—People—I’m going to call the police
I’m all alone and I’m scared—I’ve no country
I’m in pain.
And we walk
I hold her arm, so frail.
She wanders, melancholy when her mind goes blank
Prays to the good lord for having placed me on her path.
I don’t look at her.
She sniffs, and spits, and shouts.
Levels the whole world unworthy of her existence.
A crystal in a blouse of torment.
On Saint-Hubert, between Ontario and Sainte-Catherine.
I walked with a ghost.

Translation of "Dolorès." Copyright Christine Germain. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Jonathan Kaplansky. All rights reserved.

En plein hiver

Dans la lumière froide

Valse glacée sur les trottoirs de Montréal.


Elle a mal Dolorès

Dans sa fourrure cheapqui sent le renfermé.



Sa grande cigarette blanche dans une main

À peine allumée

Le lighter rouge serré dans l’autre.

Sa jambe raide plantée dans la douleur.


Près du terminus.

Sur Saint -Hubert , entre Ontario et Sainte-Catherine.

Avant ou après le buck de bière lumineux.


Entre les motels de fortune

Où la fumée noire craque les poumons

Où dures les veines se chauffent

Sur un matelas d’abandon.


Un manteau de colère, jeté sur les épaules.

Ses pieds flottant dans des bottes en plastique

Une jaquette d’hôpital, une tuque orange :

Une odeur de fin.


Ses yeux comme deux roches.


Surexitée de neige

Elle tempête :


Le monde - J’ai peur – Le monde

Les noirs – Les drogués – Les jeunes – Les autres

Le centre-ville – Le monde – Je vais appeler la police

Je suis toute seule et j’ai peur – j’ai pas de pays

J’ai mal.


Et nous marchons

Je tiens son bras si frêle.







Elle flotte, vague à l’âme dans ses absences

Prie le bon dieu de m’avoir mise sur son chemin.


Je ne la regarde pas.


Elle renifle, et crache, et vocifère.

Varlope large le grand monde indigne de son existence.


Un cristal dans un corsage de tourmente.


Sur Saint -Hubert , entre Ontario et Sainte-Catherine

J’ai marché avec un spectre.




Copyright Christine Germain



Christine GermainChristine Germain

photo by André Lemelin

Christine Germain has published three collections with Planète Rebelle, most recently Soirs menteurs in collaboration with musician Martin Tétreault. She has participated in numerous readings and festivals, collaborated on group projects, and orchestrated and staged readings and performances of poetry. For nearly a decade, she co-directed, with the poet and playwright Michel Garneau, a Radio-Canada program devoted to music and poetry, Les Décrocheurs . . . d’étoiles.

Translated from FrenchFrench by Jonathan KaplanskyJonathan Kaplansky

Jonathan Kaplansky works as a literary translator of French in Montreal. He won a French Voices Award to translate a journal by Annie Ernaux, Things Seen. His translations include novels by Hélène Dorion and Hélène Rioux, a book of poetry by Serge Patrice Thibodeau, and several biographies of historical and political figures.