Sunday 29 May 2016


I hope readers and readers-bloggers will not be angry with me if I choose a poem today with illustrations, and generally take back the helm of these "Sketches and Vignettes".

There are still several contributors and contributions to come: I am both surprised by and happy of their numbers. They will be back tomorrow but today is a special day in France and at The Little Family's. The last Sunday in May is Mother's (or Mothering) Day. And The Girls and I wish to send our flowers to Mothers who are no more.

Tastes have always been simple: roses. But not your elaborate roses to be seen in flower shows. No. The flowers of brambles and blackberries, eglantines, briar roses, slightly more sophisticated climbing roses. 

Silhouettes in the afternoon, bended, pushing back a  lock of hair escaped from the bun, wet and curling tendrils in the neck, back of a gloved hand on forehead, slight squint against the light and the sun when straightening up from a corner in the shade, a sigh, a straw hat sliding crazily.

Silhouettes in the morning, wicker baskets on arm, secateurs in the other hand, choosing the flower, the length of the stem, thinking about colour scheme, height of vases, width of flower dishes, lifting a face towards the early sun before the coming of the heat, dew on the grass and in the paths.

Silhouettes in the falling night, half lost, half indistinct, caressing the climbing roses while listening to the chatter of sister, husband, daughter, son, nephew, vaguely smiling surely, blue time of the dying evening, trailing with them a light but heading scent.

Then, home. Windows wide open over the June night. Books taken down from the shelves and discussions under the gentle but always professorial rule of Grand-Father, about old botanical plates. Waves of warm wind and white gauze-like curtains billowing as veils of a ship ready to leave. Last cup of tea. "No, not for me, thank you. I would prefer a lime infusion, or a lavender one. Sleep eludes me and I need to feel calm." Nod. Smile.

Fading silhouettes. Faded silhouettes. There shall be no involuntarily brushing or caress anymore. There will be no kiss, no look, no smile, no laugh anymore. There shall be imagined silhouettes guessed in the shimmering light or the gathering dusk, by the corner of the eye. There shall be the illusion of a scent, of a gesture against the cheek, of a move, of a warmth around the shoulders.. 

Only silhouettes.

Do you remember these days in Arles? The end of August under a biting sun and more biting bugs? Do you remember the woman who was selling essential oils of lavender and lemon grass, geranium as well, against mosquitoes and bugs? And the long way among the sarcophagi towards Saint-Honorat church, with the trees that had not changed much since the time of Paul and Vincent? And the voice. The voice that was saying the words of the poem, slowly, as we were walking slowly. Sowly. Softly.

In Arle, where rest the Alyscams,
When shadows are red, under roses,
And the weather clear,

Beware the sweetness of things,
When you feel your too heavy heart
Beat without cause;

And silent are the doves;
Wisper, if it be love,
Besides the graves.

The poem is by Paul-Jean Toulet
and as no translation seems to exist in English
(at least available to me)
I have made a very free and awkward translation.

Les Alyscams

Dans Arle, où sont les Alyscams,
Quand l'ombre est rouge, sous les roses,
Et clair le temps,

Prends garde à la douceur des choses
Quand tu sens battre sans cause 
Ton coeur trop lourd;

Et que se taisent les colombes;
Parle tout bas, si c'est d'amour,
Au bord des tombes.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Camille:

    Maman loved brambles and climbing roses too. For a few years in the 1990s miniature yellow roses grew in boxes and planters.

    These infusions really bring an inflection, don't they?

    Thank you for the Paul-Jean Toulet. With his poem you made an Arles we could never forget!