Two poems of love and marriage: Translations


1. Les vœux

Une fois je t’ai promis le tout
quand je t’ai offert ma vie.

Je t’ai promis les nuits et les soirées,
les matins ensoleillées, les journées de pluie.

Je t’ai offert la bouche qui sait désirer,
le front qui sait rêver dans tes caresses,
les bras qui gardent leur chaleur.

Je t’ai offert des sensations et des sensitivités
des mots justes et des sonorités.
Le lustre et les sauvageries une fois je t’ai représentés.

Je t’ai promis l’amour sous la souffrance,
le cœur qui ne cesse pas de se donner.
Les pleures et les regards ne t’ai-je pas jurés ?
Les yeux qui comptent les larmes,
mes propres sentiments ne t’ai-je pas offerts ?

Accepte donc la totalité de mes promesses,
l’addition, la somme, le début et la fin du compte.

Veuille recevoir alors la signe de mes promesses,
la main droite tremblante, la vérité blessante, la sincérité.

Et je te supplie, chère toi qui as déjà mon cœur,
qui as mes veines, mon souffle et mon sang,
d’entendre la voix de mon serment,
celle-là tout bas,
comme si elle venait de lointain,
obscurée de doutes,
celle-là que peut-être tu trouves trop tendre,
celle-là qui ne cesse pas de poser la question,
celle-là qui attend de toi une réponse.

Notre vie ensemble n’est-elle pas qu’une promesse ?

1. Vows (English translation)

I once promised you everything when I offered you my life. 

I promised you nights and evenings, sunny mornings and days of rain.

I offered you a mouth that knows desire, a brow that can dream in your caresses, and arms that can keep us warm.

I offered you sensations and sensitivites, right words and sonorities. Of brightness and wildness I gave you a vision.

I promised you love underneath suffering, a heart that never ceases to give of itself. Didn’t I promise you weaping and eyes that see you and eyes that count tears. Have I not offered my own feelings ?

Accept, then, the totality of my promesses, the sum, the bill, the beginning and end of the account.

Receive the sign of my promesses, a trembling right hand, truth that hurts, and my sincerity.

And I beseech you, you my dearest who have already my heart, you who have my veins, my blood and my breath, to hear the voice of my pledge to you—the voice soft and low as if it were coming from far off, obscured by my doubts, the voice that maybe you have found too tender, the one that will not stop asking the question, the one that is waiting for a response :

Tell me, is are life together not a promise?

2. La fête

Qu’il y aient à notre mariage des violons,
des bouquets de fleurs et des parfums de roses,
à chaque table des tintements de verres.

Qu’il y aient des costumes gris et des tissus légères,
de nouvelles robes et des aromes de cuir.
Pour chaque jubilation, une danse.
et pour chaque silence, une pause.
De la fraicheur à chaque fenêtre
et à chaque table une carafe d’eau.
Que les danseurs viennent mouiller leurs lèvres desséchées.

À tous ceux qui veulent causer, un partenaire.
À tous ceux qui veulent danser, des battements de cœur.
Et à tous ceux qui veulent en contempler, des points d’or
au moment où la marée nuageuse révèle ses perles.

Et que nous quittions, ma chère, la salle de danse,
avant que les pétales sortent de leur bouquets et les carafes se vident.
Avant les tremblements de branches
et les premiers soupirs du vent,
avant l’avance rosâtre aux champs
et les premières étoiles aux cieux,
que nous retrouvions notre propre espace de cœur.
Là nous nous donnerons notre amour.

Que nous nous offrions nos chuchotements
alors que les cadences des violons commencent à s’allonger.

Car notre amour est comme une fleur rare
si fine et si inconnue
qu’elle n’a qu’un seul nom dans une seule langue.
Or, notre amour est comme un chant,
si intime, si inscrutable
qu’elle ne fait aucun rythme ni aucun sens
aux ceux qui en déchiffreraient.
Mais que nous sachions, ma chère, mon cœur à moi,
quand nous partageons nos secrets
que nous touchons un amour de si sacré et de si commun
que les amoureux de tous les pays
ont pour lui leur propres adresses,
leurs propres salutations,
leurs propres tendres noms.

Que cet amour soit suffisamment grand pour entourer
un univers de solitude et de pertes dans son étendue.
Que le vent du soir, mêlé à la musique,
soulage chaque blessure.
Qu’ils trouve à chaque souffrance un regard,
à chaque espoir un accord.

Qu’il y aient des violons et des extases,
des saveurs, des danses et des parfums,
des carafes d’eau et des perles d’étoiles
l’entrechoquement de verres, des roses, des rires,
et à chaque table, des rêves du cœur.

2. The feast (English translation)

May our wedding have violins,
bouquets of flowers and perfumes of roses,
at each table the clinking of glasses.

Let there be gray suits and light fabric,
new dresses and smells of leather.
For each cry of joy a dance,
for each silence, a moment of stillness.
At every window may there be cool air
and at each table a carafe of water.
May the dancers moisten their dried lips.

To all who want to talk, may there be a partner.
To all who want to danse, stirrings of the heart.
And to all who would contemplate it, points of gold
at the moment when the tide of clouds reveals its pearls.

And let us, my love, leave the dance hall
before the petals spring from their bouqets and the carafes run dry.
Before the trembling of the branches
and the first sighs of the evening wind,
before the fields are filled with their pink
and the skies are filled with stars,
may we find our heart’s own space.
There, we will give each other our love.

When the cadences of violins begin their lengthening
let us offer each other our whispers.

For our love is like a rare flower
so fine, so unfamiliar
that it has only one name in one language.
Or it could be that our love is like a song,
so intimate and inscrutable
that it makes no sense or rhythm
to those who would decipher it.
But may we know, my love, my own heart,
when we share our secrets
that we touch a love so sacred, so common
that those who love from every country
have for it their own titles,
their own greetings,
and their own tender names.

May this love be big enough to circle
a world of losses and loneliness in its reach.
May the evening wind, mingled with violin music,
salve each wound.
May those who suffer find one who sees them,
and may those who hope find an answer.

Let there be violins and ecstasies,
flavors, dances, and perfumes,
carafes of water and pearls of stars,
the clinking of glasses, roses and laughs,
and at each table, dreams from the heart.



Twelve thoughts on “The Rescuers Down Under”


  1. Today when I was baking, and listening–
    I’m on vacation. Please forgive me if it sounds like I don’t work. Sometimes I listen to Hamilton and I’m like “I too feel like I’m writing like I’m running out of time,” but then I realize I’m writing about The Rescuers Down Under and not drafting the Federalist Papers. I’m self-conscious. I’m looking for a mind at work. This movie makes the world burn.
  2. So I was baking, and listening to the Grieg piano concerto. There was the roaring statement of the first theme in the 3rd movement (You’ve heard it…it’s the musical equivalent of opening a hot, steaming oven with your eyes unshielded…and it’s beautiful), and then, the second theme rushed in, flowed in: waves crashing on the beach and filtering down through the rocks, returning to the sea. It gets majestic at the end, but this first time it is delicate, sensitive, and intimate, and I thought–as I always think, as I seem not to be able to help but thinking when I hear this theme–“Ah, this is the part that’s from Rescuers Down Under score. Fly, Marahuté, fly.” Please tell me I’m not the only one.6501_4.jpg
  3. Who among us have not had our childhood identity shaped by this movie? A three-year-old, I used to throw piles of dirty clothes on my bed to make it look as disheveled as Cody’s hammock. I used to dream of packing a pocket knife, kicking my feet over the picket fence in the early morning sunshine, and telling my mom I had packed a lunch for the day, and thus escaping with a clean lie.
  4. I also used to identify with Frank. No one understands me, and I am just a little lizard trying to have a good time. I could have trouble being brave sometimes, but I could spread out my ear-things and prance about the room, stick my poor tale into locks and pick them in my sleep, murmuring my steps to freedom like an incantation. When I yelled, “Look at me I’m free!” all the kangaroos (voire adults) in my life would scream “Shhh.” But Frank, little John, find the keys. Learn to be responsible. Learn to set the people free.hqdefault-1.jpg
  5. I have no words to tell you–just as I cannot explain why it could be so, considering my life experiences up to that point–how profoundly resonant this movie’s central themes of freedom and escape were to me at age three. Think with me of all the examples. There was Cody in a pit, Cody lowered by the hook of a crane into a crocodile-infested river, there was Frank and that aging Koala in a prison of animal cages, and, lest we forget, John Candy’s Wilbur in that hospital trailer scene to which I have never seen in the history of film a more nightmarish moment. But consider “release” in its purest form: when I saw Cody cut the cords from Marahuté’s neck, in the earliest, most spiritual part of my heart, I knew and believed that someday the cords that bound me could be, would someday be broken. And it came as no surprise to me that Marahuté should have been caught and bound so many times. I just accepted it. “This it what life is like,” I felt in my heart, and I could have said if I had the words. And I could have watched that eagle get recaptured and restored a dozen, a hundred times more. The mind of a child never grows tired of the iterations of life’s fundamental realities. And if we’re being honest, I am not embellishing my experience of this movie at all. I know I’m not alone. Erik Eriksen can take it up from here.Jake-in-The-Rescuers-Down-Under.png
  6. In the United Nations scene, Bianca says, mistakenly, that all she will need for her wedding is “a pair of khaki shorts and some hiking boots.” I don’t think I understood what was happening in this engagement mix-up scene when I was three. This came later, but when it did, at age eight, I assuredly snorted out laughter. And for all those out there who have had or attended a Bay Area wedding… “Just a pair of khaki shorts and some hiking boots”…isn’t that kind of what the ceremony was like? I mean, we didn’t ride flying squirrels, but ok, next point.
  7. I will not watch another funny video that someone wants to show me until they can be impressed upon to admit, with full sincerity, that America has not produced a finer comedic achievement than the scene with Joanna and the eggs. “THESE ARE NOT JOANNA EGGS.” I’m still dying of laughter.hqdefault.jpg
  8. “Daniel, the significance of that scene when Joanna was trying to steal the eggs was that McLeach was denying her femininity.” I actually said this once. College is a scary place.
  9. But speaking of gender, why should Cody’s mother not be given a face? Like I get it—this is an animal movie. And maybe we don’t need to see a mother’s face to imagine her despair, just her soft, pale, ill-defined hands folding gently over the remains of her son’s pack, holding in her mourning. Remember, the rangers had just explained that her missing son had fallen into a crocodile hole. (Do such things really exist?) But McLeach is given a face. And so is Cody. The villain and the protagonist. The movie has room for the faces of two human men. But is Cody’s mother not just as interesting and, indeed, complex? It appears that she is a single parent. Maybe she was widowed or the last one left in her family when her parents died. Or did Cody’s father take her out to the heart of the Outback, promising romance, freedom, a chance to start a new life, only to abandon his family? She’s trying to hold her life together. There’s a working generator (Remember Cody’s electric fan), a sturdy-enough looking chimney (We looked at it for almost the whole of the minute-and-a-half movie introduction). She drives a truck (Let’s hope it still runs). But none of these nor the relief she must have felt each spring to know that the roof had held for one more winter can hardly have offered much in the way of consolation. And, if I can say so, she has some shortcomings. She accepted the lie that her son had packed a couple sandwiches for the day. She seems unable to imagine what her son was up to, activities which include climbing Australia’s El Capitan without gear and flying through the clouds on an eagle’s back to Grieg music. Let us pause to give thanks that he never tried to share words with the dingos and the jackals of his community. When the rangers came to her door, did she say “Why did my son go near that crocodile hole?” We want her to at least say this. But maybe she could not, not just then. Her grief is too deep for her to try to defend herself, or to pass blame, or to put up any kind of front. I see her returning to her place by the sink and, looking out the window, adding this to her catalogue of so many events in a life that just never seemed to work out right. I would have liked to see her face.
  10. And let us thank the filmmakers for the transactive healing of young Cody and Marahuté. He, who needed as all children do affection, adventure, another chance to do good to someone, She whose husband’s death by poaching left her in the position of not being able to protect her growing nest from predators. She found a way to protect her babies, and he found, in the one he was protecting, not just a companion but a second mother, a bird mother with soft feathers and sharp talons who could help him rise above the pressures and traps and captivities of this life and restore him to his full humanity. Grieg couldn’t have been more proud.The-End-of-The-Rescuers-Down-Under.png
  11. And let us give thanks for Joanna, the true protagonist of this film, the only one other than Bernard who experiences character development (We can of course attempt to describe Cody’s mom’s inner life, but it is just that: an attempt. We imagine a change in her outlook on life once her son as at last found, free from crocodile teeth marks and the bruises of being kept in a cage by a potential father figure–I’m honestly trying to put a stop to this emotional content–this movie is just so rich). But Joanna, whether through self-interest (but of course it can’t merely be this) or through a growing sense of having trusted a man who won’t let her even enjoy the simple delights of life (i.e. eggs), who would force her to destroy another woman animal’s future to get these eggs, who she must have known would one day betray her when he no longer had use for her, would let this companion who can no longer be a companion walk out of her life. She waves goodbye, one finger at a time, with the hand that had once been crushed by the lid of the metal egg bin. She frees herself. And in so doing, I believe, frees Cody and Marahuté to soar among the clouds.
  12. There are many things that happened in our culture since this movie came out. The country lost and regained its 1980s interest in Australia. The internet made the world smaller–and so painfully small: the Codys of this world no longer play outside. The Pokémon species’ insistence on one-word self-identifaction replaced the wide-ranging syntactical repertoire of the Australian animal kingdom. Somewhere northeast of their continent, Nemo found his beloved father, Dory sang whale songs, and the fish of an another century wriggled onto the land. But in my deepest of hearts, I know that in this still violent, still disturbing, and still sometimes hopeless-feeling era, Joanna is somewhere eating eggs. Maybe she has collected them herself. Maybe she has given up poaching and now orders them off Amazon. But I have reason to hope that she is enjoying a freedom that feels every day to her as fresh as each new carton of eggs. I feel you, Joanna. I feel you.