dimanche 30 janvier 2011

necessary boundaries

my little closet is being invaded
by beautiful alien youths in dreadlocks
i wish i could open the windows
and sing hallelujah with the angels
but i have nothing to say when
my sickness is so thick, lodged in
a slow, one-track brain, throat
raw and closed, body in full pain

i tuck away the poems and
grands écrans, brush my hair
paint on a mona lisa smile
but my eyes cannot hide my
fear of the intrusion upon this 
stark and naked room

my guilt is over the top 
for i love youth so much
who reach out from busy lives
to visit a cripple in her dive
i wish my mind were an open sky
free of these hard boundaries

the closed quarters of this
caged bird will go down in
history as a complex loom
from which i wove the terms of
my own shame and aloneness

in the end i always relent and say
let it not be so, throw open
the gates and let them come
and come what may because
i judge myself the worst in
proportion to this suffering

yet i cannot draw the blinds on pain
emanating from my half closed
eyes and vacuous speech
the most basic of truths is
that i am sick with a virulent
virus and today like most days
i have no good thing to say

dear youth, please forgive me
when i sink in that blue pool
the wallows of self-pity
that turn from liquid to ice
any trace of self-worth

i want more than anything
to dance a waltz with you
and rejoice in your successes
to speak french like a frenchman
but no matter the language
i'm mute and sick and fed up
and I cannot receive you today

vendredi 28 janvier 2011

Taratata: Hommage à Alain Bashung

L'émission rock Taratata va enrégistrer un nouvel hommage à Bashung le 4 fév 2011,  
avec Benjamin Biolay et d'autre artists. Moi, je préfère leur premier hommage en 2009  
où Bashung chante Bashung. A voir vite... xoxoxooxox


mercredi 26 janvier 2011


there's been enough gold
for one lifetime
and enough blood too
poverty shall haunt me
bending her long diatribes
into the hollows of my ears
like the ghost of a wind
launching the moon
into a cold pale gloaming

the cupboard is empty
and deep inside a
gnawing beetle is cutting
through my room
bringing down the house
onto the dirt cellar
with its smell of cider
and formadehyde
and bitter mushrooms

i do not want the spring
to come upon this land
i want a dirge for everyone
who died here
who spent his finger flesh
in orchard and field
who buried her children
and burnt her furniture
and fed cornmeal to chickens

poverty my long lost
take me down where
the workhorse grazes
i want to lie on the hay
and remember it all
i want to eat potatoes
and fall asleep beneath
soundless stars

nothing can hold me
hearty and hale
when everyone i loved
has left this place
only poverty shall have me now
my shirt sullied and rent
with dirt on my face and
worms and beetles
my fairweather friends

and in my hands
a silver spoon the
last one in the drawer
to dig a pit
that's five by two
to better fit a
blind man's daughter
who dwelled with him
for fifty odd years or more

now she lies in the earth
and sheds no tears
nor listens for the push
of the starting buds
it's over and done
she has had enough
the whistling teakettles
and the lily bells that grow
between the corn rows

written by Edgar Allan Poe/ animated and directed by Aaron Quinn/ narrated by Basil Soper

mardi 25 janvier 2011

The Poetry of Alphaville: Paul Eluard

Paul Eluard was the screenwriter for "Alphaville"...

Ta voix, tes yeux, tes mains, tes lèvres,
Nos silences, nos paroles,
La lumière qui s’en va, la lumière qui revient,
Un seul sourire pour nous deux,
Par besoin de savoir, j’ai vu la nuit créer le jour sans que nous changions d’apparence,
Ô bien-aimé de tous et bien-aimé d’un seul,
En silence ta bouche a promis d’être heureuse,
De loin en loin, ni la haine,
De proche en proche, ni l’amour,
Par la caresse nous sortons de notre enfance,
Je vois de mieux en mieux la forme humaine,
Comme un dialogue amoureux, le cœur ne fait qu’une seule bouche
Toutes les choses au hasard, tous les mots dits sans y penser,
Les sentiments à la dérive, les hommes tournent dans la ville,
Le regard, la parole et le fait que je t’aime,
Tout est en mouvement, il suffit d’avancer pour vivre,
D’aller droit devant soi vers tout ce que l’on aime,
J’allais vers toi, j’allais sans fin vers la lumière,
Si tu souris, c’est pour mieux m’envahir,
Les rayons de tes bras entrouvraient le brouillard.

Your voice, your eyes, your hands, your lips,
Our silences, our words,
The light that goes away, the light that comes back,
A single smile for the two of us,
By my need to know, I have seen night create day without us changing appearance,
O well-loved of all and well-loved of only one,
In silence your mouth promised to be happy,
Further and further, not hate,
Closer and closer, not love,
By the caress we exit our childhood,
I see better and better the human form,
As in a lovers' dialogue, the heart makes only one mouth,
Everything by chance, all words said without reflexion,
Feelings adrift, men turn towards the city,
The glance, the words and the fact that I love you,
Everything is in movement, it is sufficient to advance in order to live,
By going straight ahead towards everything you love,
I went towards you, I went without end towards the light,
If you smile, it is to better invade me,
The rays of light from your arms begin to part the fog.

~translated by moineau

An excellent article, in French, where i found the transcription of the scene: 

Posters from France, the US, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and Japan
and the road sign for Alphaville

samedi 15 janvier 2011

Translation: Tango Funèbre (Jacques Brel)

aussi interpretée par Alain Bashung (deux fois!)

Ah! je les vois déjà
Ah! I see them already
Me couvrant de baisers
Covering me with kisses
Et s'arrachant mes mains
Fighting over my hands
Et demandant tout bas
And asking softly
Est-ce que la mort s'en vient
Is death coming
Est-ce que la mort s'en va
Is death going
Est-ce qu'il est encore chaud
Is he still hot
Est-ce qu'il est déjà froid?
Is he already cold?
Ils ouvrent mes armoires
They're opening my closets
Ils tâtent mes faïences
They're feeling up my china
Ils fouillent mes tiroirs
They're rummaging through my drawers
Se régalant d'avance
Enjoying in advance
De mes lettres d'amour
My love letters
Enrubannées par deux
Tied by twos with ribbon
Qu'ils liront près du feu
That they will read by the fire
En riant aux éclats
Laughing in guffaws
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Ah ! je les vois déjà
Ah! I see them already
Compassés et frileux
Proper and chilly
Suivant comme des artistes
Following like artists
Mon costume de bois
My costume of wood
Ils se poussent du coeur
They push on their hearts
Pour être le plus triste
To be the most sad
Ils se poussent du bras
They push each other's arms
Pour être le premier
To be the first
Z'ont amené des vieilles
They've brought the old people
Qui ne me connaissaient plus
Who don't know me anymore
Z'ont amené des enfants
They've brought their children
Qui ne me connaissaient pas
Who did not know me
Pensent au prix des fleurs
Think about the price of flowers
Et trouvent indécent
And find it indecent
De ne pas mourir au printemps
Not to have died in spring
Quand on aime le lilas 
When one loves the lily
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Ah! je les vois déjà
Ah! I see them already
Tous mes chers faux amis
All my dear false friends
Souriant sous le poids
Smiling under the weight
Du devoir accompli
Of their duty accomplished
Ah je te vois déjà
Ah! I see them already
Trop triste trop à l'aise
Too sad too at ease
Protégeant sous le drap
Protecting under the sheet
Tes larmes lyonnaises
Your lyonaise tears
Tu ne sais même pas
You don't even know
Sortant de mon cimetière
Coming out of my cemetary
Que tu entres en ton enfer
That you are entering into your hell
Quand s'accroche à ton bras
When leaning on your arm
Le bras de ton quelconque
The arm of your whoever
Le bras de ton dernier
The arm of your last one
Qui te fera pleurer
Who will make you cry
Bien autrement que moi
So much more than I
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Ah! je me vois déjà
Ah! I see myself already
M'installant à jamais
Installing myself into forever
Bien triste bien au froid
So sad so in the cold
Dans mon champ d'osselets
In my field of little bones
Ah! je me vois déjà
Ah! I see myself already
Je me vois tout au bout
I see myself right to the end
De ce voyage-là
Of this voyage
D'où l'on revient de tout
From where one comes back from everything
Je vois déjà tout ça
I see all this already
Et on a le brave culot
And one has a lot of nerve
D'oser me demander
Daring to ask me
De ne plus boire que de l'eau
Not to drink anything else but water
De ne plus trousser les filles
Not to talk up the girls any longer
De mettre de l'argent de côté
To put aside money
D'aimer le filet de maquereau
To love filet of mackeral
Et de crier vive le roi
And to cry long live the king
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!

(Translated by moineau)

Les sans-abri en hiver

Dites-moi comment vont-ils faire,
Ces sans-habitat, sans demeure?
Les nuits sont glaciales et si claires:
Souvent ces misérables meurent.

Je les vois devant nos entrées
Dans leurs minces sacs de couchage,
Sous les têtes leurs biens cachés,
Pas de doux rêves sous les nuages.

Serrés les uns contre les autres,
D'autres voudraient s'endormir
Les gens de la ville se vautrent:
Gélées les victimes expirent.

La soupe chaude--SOS!
Au secours, un cœur ralenti:
Le cœur d'une mère qui cesse:
Un drap blanc devient son abri.

Ne jugez pas les vieux soûlards
Qui posent leurs os dans le train:
Mieux vaut offrir dans leur brouillard
Aux êtres humains votre main.

Car chacun vit ses grands épreuves,
Les maladies nous effleurent,
Les vies sont les romans-fleuves:
A chacun sa propre demeure!

La première victime d'hiver en France 2010 - Photo France Soir

samedi 8 janvier 2011

sick kid, tragic murders

today, a boy, jared loughner, 22, came to a political rally in arizona and shot rep. gabrielle giffords through the head and killed seven other people, including a 9-yr-old girl, a judge and a federal marshall. i heard a lot of inflamed rhetoric afterward about chopping off his head and putting him in prison to be repeatedly raped. sadness for the dead is a natural response. murderous rage for a schizophrenic kid is something else. i had to write a short poem.

what do i know
about anything at all?
a boy pulls a gun
and kills seven people
wounds ten more
and all i can think is
"mental illness"

so i go out to explore
what the media is not
telling us
i go to the boy's
youtube account
and watch six videos
puzzles he has posted

his waking dreams
his lack of sleep
the new currency
grammar and mind control
and a vain attempt
at syllogism
his logic twisting in the wind

they're calling for
his crazy head
i've seen rape mentioned
and street justice
he's taking the 5th
from what i saw on line
it's "logical"

he's been watching them
watching him
they gave him a small bible
when he tried to enlist in
the army but he retorted
"i will not believe in god
or government!"

"are you literate?
what does your new
currency look like?
will year ADE go on
and on forever?
do you dream, listener,
do you dream?"

click to enlarge...

bashung a une sépulture digne de lui... enfin.

grace à philippe perrin, sculpteur, qui m'a envoyé aujourd'hui cette grande photo de la nouvelle sépulture pour notre bien aimé. cliquez pour aggrandir la photo.

bisous, pp, pour ton travail et ton être. et maintenant pour toi:


mercredi 5 janvier 2011

AWOL 1970

(warning: mildly explicit content)

i don't remember 
where we met
somewhere in 
worcester mass

no wait i do
it was clark university
you hung out at local
colleges because the kids
always helped you out
i had found my way to
a couch for a nap
when i woke up
i bummed a cigarette
we connected

you were awol from the army
i was awol from home
both of us on the run
from a sort of death
and sick authority
you from nam and those
last bloody deployments
i just wanted to get
as far away as possible
from my mother's debacles

we found a crash pad
and just stayed inside
you were so paranoid
about getting caught
while i liked the air
of conspiracy

i'd marched on washington
the year before
hitchhiked down with
my first boyfriend dave
i suppose that shows how
permissive my mother was
or rather how out of touch
with my rush to adulthood

you said you were 32
but you looked much older
your long blond hair
and brisly moustache didn't
hide your sun-hardened face
in fact today i'd say
you looked like a prisoner who
had just left auschwitz
skinny and scared shitless

your green jacket
was your only giveaway
and why you still wore it
god only knows
i suppose in those days
it spoke for itself
a protest of sorts and
a signal to other
veterans and activists

i was the iconic flower
child, a timid virgin of 13
the one you had waited for
you told me and
how lucky you were
to be the first man 
to have me

you said that once we
reached mexico 
we'd get married and
have tons of kids
i didn't know exactly
what that meant
but i went along with it
i felt pretty sorry for you

it took you many times to
deflower this child bride
i was so small and tight
but you were persistent
time after time on that
cold barren mattress
you poked and prodded
until you went limp
it must have been as
frustrating for you
as it was painful for me
i felt like a pin cushion
after 6 or 7 tries

finally you put me decidedly
on a hardwood table and
pulled my buttocks
gently towards you
i knew this was the moment i
had long dreamed of
i panicked and looked around
just above my head
was a bare light bulb
as bright as it was
i couldn't take my
eyes off it

in one fellswoop
you pushed into me as
my consciousness clung
so hard to that bulb
it bore a hole straight
through to my amygdala
i can still see it sometimes
just above my head
when i'm in that
helpless position

we left worcester the next day 
and headed to new york city
landing in the dorm room of some
guy you'd met on the sidewalk
then a shared apartment on
an nyu bulletin board

one of the roommates
talked to me outside
we shared a cigarette
i thought he wanted
nothing from me at all
and i felt very calm
yet empowered
he called me a
little sparrow
and it made me feel

i slept with the boy
then dumped you the next morning
your cloying had begun to bug me
i saw you as a weakling
for trusting me with
all that power

yes, there was new power in sex
strange and cruel and wonderful
but little did i know as i
set out to explore brooklyn
that i was about to lose it all
to a marauding stranger

lundi 3 janvier 2011

sex lesson

this is not a call for censorship but for reason...

gaga gets gang banged

yes use the female form
design it to your taste
make them all the same
expressionless curvaceous
make them undulate
suggestive of bare naked
while you prognosticate
with your latest song
about how to make them pay
for the ways they done you wrong
for not allowing you to take
what was and never will be yours

oh music man in black glasses
professor of sexual slander
slave driver sellout to
mass media gang bangers
line them up in pairs
you know they're all lesbians
so just create another bender
of booze, music and sex antics
then worship the greenbacks
growing out their asses
it's the the closest you'll ever come
to understanding "woman"

and behind the seeming glamor
a handful of heartless bastards
with all the world to gain
who test market our brains
track search engines and "likes"
for the seeds of basic training
with men driven by their lust
and women desperate to belong
we're sold the bill of goods
and made to die for it
bright and potent stars
crushed for gold dust

all the same, video after video

robert palmer and ms. lips sell pepsi

booty call for your usage

excellent traing for adolescent girls

babes in black with drinks in hand

show her how it's done while another girl looks on

gaga, fake lesbians for your viewing pleasure

gaga, fake sex prisoners while real women languish in jail without their children

dimanche 2 janvier 2011


for puma perl

deep losses. poems that puzzle out grief. the yearly triggers. the awful need for peace. loss and peace come in snatches, niches, cachettes. each trumps the other ad nauseum. la vie en rond.

samedi 1 janvier 2011

Alain Bashung - Aucun Express

la sagesse des siècles, dans une video d'alain très émouvante pour cette fin du premier jour de 2011. tu nous manques aujourd'hui... ~ton petit moineau


One Year Later: Bashung in English: Translating France's Greatest Rocker

"We will cross other lines..."

Dear friends and fans, 

It was one year ago on Christmas Day that I lunged into the work of translating the œuvre of Alain Bashung. I have now completed seven (7) albums, minus a couple of songs, including the album/song that gets the greatest number of hits on the website, "Cantique des cantiques". I thought it would be educational (and most humbling) to review what I've learned during this year, both about translating and about translating text that is as ironic and intangible as that of Bashung and his collaborators.

I decided from the beginning not to make the translations singable, which would have meant finding alternate words and phrases, changing around entire strophes, counting syllables (or close to it), and finagling a rhyme scheme. My immediate goal was to allow speakers of English the opportunity to comprehend what the songs were about and, as specifically as possible, to offer them the images that the songwriters had intended. I also wanted to make the whole experience as enjoyable and accessible as possible for the listeners and for myself. Consequently, I rushed through a lot of music, and the result is seven albums of some very good, some half-baked, and some, still, downright awkward translations.

Thanks to generous, incisive criticism from a couple of native French speakers and English poets, I had to admit that some of the translations were simply too precious, "too word-for-word and heavy", as one very kind and honest reviewer wrote. I went back and found that he was right; several of the songs did not sound like natural English.

Hence, I started with the ones that were critiqued and found that it was possible to shift some of the language without losing the actual images. One not minor example: my initial insistance on the use of the impersonal, third person "on" of french: "One is making love in the backseat." What would that possibly mean to an English speaker? So I went back through several "completed" translations, and had to make decisions about exactly who that "one" was. Was it "I", "they", "us"? Occasionally, "one" worked very well and I left it, but most often it did not. I made my selection from the context of both the line and the song, and I feel good about the whole debacle, which at first it was for me; that is, until I realized the necessity.

There were other things, like inverted sentences, where it sounded fine in French but made no sense in English. When I did "straighten out" those sentences, I'd often find a nice near-rhyme at the end or at least alliteration. Happy accidents! For example in the last song I translated, "Douane Eddy" from "Passé le Rio Grande": "Tellement beaucoup qu'elle a plu" (So much did she rain...). Here I decided to keep what I had translationed in the earlier part of the verse, "Elle a tellement plu qu'elle est encore toute mouillée" (She rained so much that she's still all wet), simply, "She rained so much", which sounded great followed by "Gallop gallop". Alliteration can be a wonderful substitute for a true rhyme...sometimes. In the case of the translations, since English words can sound like French words with only a slight change to the vowel, it happens a lot.

Eventually, I'd like to go back and select certain popular songs ("Madame Rêve", "Fantaisie Militaire", "Sommes-nous", "La nuit je mens") for the ultimate translations: those that could be sung in English. I believe I will be able to do this with time. First, I'm a poet. And second, I translated several poems at university with rhyme scheme and rhythm intact, and was loudly praised by my professors. First, however, I want to get the whole body done, make it sound like fabulous English, an English that I hope even Bashung would have loved, or Jean Fauque or Boris Bergman, to name his two most prominent lyricists.

One person has asked me, "How can you do this without their collaboration and consent? These are their words!" To which I responded that I have tried to contact Jean Fauque, twice, about at least getting his opinion, if not his actual collaboration, which would be enormously fun and certainly more challenging than working alone. The first time I wrote to him was months before I started, when it was but the seed of an idea. He did not respond, and I finally decided to just go for it. He knows I'm doing it, but he has said nothing; I even sent him my dedication for "Mes bras".

I'm more tentative about reaching out to Mr. Bergman. I recently posted a video of him, from September this year, singing "Gaby oh Gaby" in English... and I'm going to grab and credit him with that translation when I reach that song, as well as his marvelous introduction (Oh, Cabbie/y!). He also put out his own album of English translations for Gainsbourg, sung by various singers.¹ But I feel that "Bibi", as he is affectionately called, might still have issues about his and Bashung's abrupt separation, and, of course, I'm totally unknown to him: I'm a bit terrified that he will say "no". Thus, if anyone has a relationship with Mr. Bergman or with Mr. Fauque, the latter whom I have met and even had pleasantries with--he wrote me before and congratulated me after my first-anniversary AB broadcast from Astoria, Oregon and even listened live at 3am in France--I will be very happy to speak with you about approaching them. Honestly, I would love to have their support, as it would only deepen the work.

Now, back to the translating. For words and phrases, both idiomatic and not, with which I am unfamiliar, there are some fantastic resources on line. I knew this before, but never as much as I do now. "WordReference" (http://www.wordreference.com/) is still my favorite, but... there's a catch. With experience, I found that, occasionally, the offerings on the site, both on the main translation and in the forums, were simply the best that someone else could come up with, "unofficial" as it were, odd to my ear or the British equivalent. On the former, it meant I was going to have to dig a lot, go into the French-to-French dictionaries and read and read; etymology, history, myth, and even, in the case of our dear Monsieur Bashung, German. It's been wonderful for me as someone who has always loved language, all languages but especially French. And I found that, yes, I could be creative without losing even a dime of meaning or image. On the British front, I decided that these would be American English translations because 1) it is the English I know best, and 2) it is the English that most students around the world want to learn. I'm sorry to my British friends if they feel slighted, but given my own background, it was the best choice I could make. On occasion, however, when the word that Bashung is singing actually comes from the British, I will use that word.

I've tried to be generous with my new knowledge, sharing some of the history and etymology in footnotes and pictograms, and also, when I can find it, the background of Bashung's and his collaborators' wordplay. There's a lot of wordplay: that's their claim to fame, and I know, fundamentally, that I only get a sliver of it. Much shall remain known only to native French speakers from France (although, due to the difficulty of the texts, not to all), and I can't say that I'm not a wee bit jealous. To get into those brains and mine that gold (that hilarious gold!), that is my impossible dream. I keep trying as hard as I can... yet in a vacuum. Here, whatever help you, dear reader, can offer would be like feeding me Belgian chocolates on a long winter's night in Alaska. You would actually be helping all of us English speakers and fellow Bashung lovers to a deeper understanding of the texts. Even if occasionally you would browse one of the translations and offer some clue to the wordplay, I would appreciate it so much, and, as some have already discovered, I will give you credit on the website. (I'd pay if you if I could.)

So, there it is, a year of translating perhaps the most difficult, twisted, sardonic French lyrics ever written. I'm proud of this work and my continuing education. I continue to pour over the translations that are done as they come back up, usually by happenstance, sometimes because I can no longer hear what he's actually singing myself--yes, I use my own translations from time to time; I read French better than I hear it. However, once the work is completed, with five more albums to go, I will systematically go back, one by one, and rework the rough patches and errors. Years from now, I will think, Eureka!, and run back to "Bashung in English", search the index, and put that genius touch on another line or word. Maybe if I'm lucky, Alain himself will guide my erratic, sardonic, depressive self with his own. I don't believe that, but it's a lovely thought, isn't it? I just miss him so much, as we all do.

Thanks to all of you for your kind and friendly support. The traffic to the website is now coming from all over the globe and has recently doubled in size; yesterday, we had visitors from Mainland China, Russia and India, to name a few. The largest group is still from France, and many of the French are repeat visitors. I can only surmise that they 1) are lovers of Alain Bashung and can't get enough of him and 2) are using the translations to improve their own knowledge of English, and that is a great use. I hope that perhaps teachers will eventually consider using the translations in the classroom; as a former utilization specialist for public television, I know the value of media in the classroom.

More than anything else, people throughout the world are now loving Alain Bashung in French and in English. What could be a better tribute almost two years after his passing? I can only hope that with these translations, I will help keep his enormous legacy alive for many, many years, perhaps many generations, to come.

Vive Alain Bashung! Et Bonne Année à tous!

~Laura Tattoo
January 1, 2011

¹Album "Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited", translated by Boris Bergman (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/serge-gainsbourg-filthy-french-474402.html)

Millennium Song

Photograph by Barbara Wolfsong of Portland, Oregon ("Watching the waves")

Eve of the millennium
and what do i feel?
Despair and tribulation
Deep sadness and fear

A night of introspection
not a thread of what's real
as the tv drones on
with reports of world cheer

Each countdown a letdown
Each hour more pain
as I lay on the couch
coffee cup in my hand

Singing my own song
a silent refrain:
"It takes more than a millennium
to make a grain of sand"