This week’s poem – “Chinks” by Blaise Cendrars – reminded me of an early lesson about list poems, namely how most poems can easily slip into lists. Whether it be a series of phrases, images, or movements, lists can sneak their way into poems, usually in threes (note how even in this sentence about lists there is a list of three within it!).
Mind you, there’s nothing inherently bad about this: usually it’ll happen naturally and have its own rhythm. Finding ways to subvert this human tendency towards *ahem* “listing” in a poem is always a challenge.
In the poem below, I was moved by the way Cendrars is able to create a pocket of human action between lists. The tension created between nature images and the speaker’s silence in the poem’s narrative adds energy to both.
Chinks – Blaise Cendrars
Trees long-haired with moss
Heavy rubbery glossy leaves
High burnished heat
I’ve stopped listening to the urgent voices of my friends discussing
The news that I brought from Paris
On both sides of the train close by or along the banks of
The distant valley
The forest is there watching me unsettling me enticing me like
a mummy’s mask
I watch back
Never the flicker of an eye.
translated by Dick Jones in qarrtsiluni