You know how it is when something unexpected happens and you’re suddenly plunged into turmoil.  You’re shocked and frustrated and just want to solve the problem but, for a time at least, you feel overwhelmed.  But you know this situation won’t do.  It can’t stand.  You have to act and it doesn’t matter where that might take you.  You’re on it.  And some times, if your luck holds, you get a poem out of it.  That’s what happened here.  Eighteen lines.  Three stanzas of six lines each.  It all works out.  And if that poem turns out to be a love poem that’s great because there doesn’t seem to be that many of them around these days.  I’d be happy to learn I’m misinformed on this.


I felt the desolation of unexpected streets
Of life without you as if I could lose you
The terrible truth of that
Walking in anger and urgency to fix the situation
What would I be like in this world without you?
I would be so alone

I was alone on these undiscovered streets
I knew getting through this angry walk
I knew when I found you
You became a part of me
I could never lose you
But I was looking for you on these never dreamt of streets

I knew getting through this angry walk I’d find the way back to you
I was determined to fix the situation
What a day would be like without you
That was a never to be dreamt of thing, love
I knew I could never be alone
When I found you on these unexpected streets

Blaise Cendrars (1887 – 1961)

I bought “Complete Postcards From the Americas Poems of Road and Sea” University of California Press ed. (1976) off a remainder table at the long since defunct Britnell’s Bookshop near Yonge and Bloor in Toronto, kept it for years then inexplicably donated it somewhere in a crazed book reduction initiative, “What was I thinking?” category.

Have you ever done this? Got rid of some titles then later become overwhelmed by remorse and contrition when you go looking for something and realize that you have foolishly flung it away? Had to scrounge up the VPL’s lone copy to get the text of the poem below that I had never forgot. Just something about “Samoyed dogs are climbing up” that still gets me as mysterious, evocative and strange. So that’s where the name of this blog comes from. I get it!

Of course, old Blaise didn’t write exactly that.  He exactly wrote “grimpent des chiens samoyèdes”.  Translation of this excellent volume was by Monique Chefdor.

Blaise blazed a new route through twentieth century poetry, wrote some astonishing novels and passed through VCR one time in the course of his many travels.  I don’t think anyone here noticed.

Blaise Cendrars – Complete Postcards From the Americas Poems of Road and Sea



Ten P.M. has just struck barely heard through the thick fog
  that muffles the docks and the ships in the harbor
The wharfs are deserted and the town is wrapped in sleep
You stroll along a low sandy shore swept by an icy wind
  and the long billows of the Pacific
That lurid spot in the dank darkness is the station of the
   Canadian Grand Trunk
And those bluish patches in the wind are the liners
  bound for the Klondike Japan and the West Indies
It is so dark that I can hardly make out the signs
  in the streets where hugging a heavy suitcase
  I am looking for a cheap hotel

Everyone is on board
The oarsmen are bent on their oars and the heavy craft
  loaded to the brim plows through the high waves
A small hunchback at the helm checks the tiller
  now and then
Adjusting his steering through the fog to the calls
  of a foghorn
We bump against the dark bulk of the ship and on the
  starboard quarter Samoyed dogs are climbing up
Flaxen in the gray-white-yellow
As if fog was being taken in freight
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