19 tales from the Southeast

(and some others)

Tale 1

A man had just got off the coach at La Roche de Rame.
Before going to his relatives house, he stopped at the cafe for breakfast.
Looking beyond the window-panes at the summit of the mountains, he said to himself:

Why does my pulse beat
like drops of rain
on the other side of my skin ?

Tale 2

In a small cafe of the « Quartiers Nord », a man was watching the trucks go by in the rain.
He thought:

implacable destiny
Is it the immobility
of movement?

Then he dismissed his thoughts.

Tale 3

A man spent a period of time during which he wrote things like this:

As simple as obvious facts
So well-bonded
Those roof-tiles.

He said: « At that time, I had nothing to say. That was something I cultivated ».

Tale 4

On coming back from a walk in the new residential districts beside the sea, a man had written:

Behind the gate
The dogs mouth threatens
But his eyes are undecided.

Tale 5

Two friends met in a little tourist port. The end of the season had made it more sober. On the glittering green water, lined up with the jetties, each brightly-colored boat had the purity of a concept.

One of the men said:

There are moments
where appearances
become essential.

His friend looked at him, trying to revive their common memories, but couldn't manage it.

Tale 6

Through the window of his villa, a man stared into his garden.
Beside him his wife whispered:

How tall the shadows are
at the fall of day.

Her sentence made him shiver.

Tale 7

Waiting in the Briançon station cafe, a young man had written:

The haste which dwells in me
Leaves me naked
Facing the moment.

In the space of a few minutes, the impression of that place engraved itself so strongly on him, that he kept its scar for a long time.

Tale 8

Once, on the highway from Marseilles to Aix, a man noticed a factory on his right.
« Look », he said to the driver:

The factory's smokes
is merging into the clouds.

Tale 9

A hundred years before, on arriving here, Van Gogh had found something of Japan in the region.
That gave a group of friends the idea of writing in the manner of the haïkaï renga.
One of them would begin:

Joining shutters
Like a man joins hands
Under his head.

Another would go on:

The cracking of pines
In the cool shadow
The trowel's noise.

And so on.

Tale 10

Leaning on the balcony, she thought:

How to say...
The noise of the motor-scooters
Far away.

The morning shift would soon begin their work in the shipyards of l'Estaque.
She still wasn't sleepy.

Tale 11

At the bar-tabac of Le Vallon-de-l'Oriol, a man had written:

On the deserted table
On the cups.

Tale 12

He saw her in order to dream. However he didn't dream of anything specific. Her windows looked over the sea.
One evening, he had written for her:

A draft from the door
On the rubber-plant's leaves.

Tale 13

A man had spent the night at the house of a lady friend who lived on the coast. Early in the morning, he went down towards the beach to buy some tobacco.
There, he stopped a moment in the bar to write these lines:

Like a mirage
The woody vale
Drowned by the mist.

His lady friend was eating when he came back. There was a little coffee left for him on the stove.
She went to her room while he served himself, and came back with these lines she had written in the night:

So perfect the outline of the moon
And so calm the water's noise
That sleep has left me.

On his way back, the man had seen, lying on the ground, an empty packet of the same tobacco he smoked. He wanted to write a poem about the impression it made on him. He composed several, and kept only this one:

Empty packet in the gutter
Mute impression
Haunting me.

On rereading this tercet, he composed this poem:

Some locations
In place of you
Could seem to be dreaming.

And this place seems
To sleep so hard
That it keeps you awake.

Exiled in wakefulness
Of this coastline and sky
You see the dream.

Tale 14

He left to have coffee under the arbour. The weather was exceptionally fine for the season.
He wrote:

It's easier to believe
We're in spring than in autumn,
and the red of the leaves
looks like blossom.

Tale 15

While leaving L'Argentierre, a man took a final glance at the banks of the Durance.
In the city dump, rubbish was burning.
He said:

This rubbish, how can it burn
drowned by the rain ?

Tale 16

Over the highway to Salon, day was falling. It had snowed, and the vehicles were moving slowly.
In the car, the cramped occupants were talking about the purpose of their journey.
In the front seat, the girl had said to the driver:

What time is it ?
It,s still light
But I have the impression that it's late.

This impression was much stronger than her words translated. Something was distilling a feverish haste in each of them.

Tale 17

In a bar in the Quartiers Nord, a man scribbled:

Between the garage doors
Slashed posters
In the sun.

He wrote this on a page of his pad, then crumpled it.

Tale 18

It often happened that she would write a few lines as soon as she had opened the shutters.
The day before, she had written:

Some time I felt a blankness descend
like when the sea becomes calm
and you glimpse the sea-bed.

Tale 19

One September afternoon,whilst having tea at Malmousque, a man composed this and dedicated it to a friend:

A terrace overlooking the sea
Between the sliding windows
An insect imprisoned.

Tale 23

A man was walking in the Parc Borelly in Marseilles.
It was a warm September afternoon, and he wanted to find quiet and coolness in the proximity of the lake.
The woman who was looking at him hurriedly turned her eyes away. He also involuntarily looked away.
This reaction made him smile, like the sharp and profound feeling it awakened in him.
Later he said:

This wild and fierce being
Who lives within us
Like a faun on his hillside
Isn't it better to agree to serve it
Than to tray to tame it.

Tale 31

Two brothers had gone dancing all night at Puget-Thénier. In the early hours, as they were following the Var in the direction of Grasse, the younger one said:

Man, I believe,
feeds on dreams alone.

Their ears were still so full of the sound that the car seemed noiseless. The first light of dawn, the cool air, and the strong smell of day strengthened in their mouths the taste of over-smoked tobacco, and, on their skin, that feverish moisture of lake of sleep.

And dreams feed on reality.

His brother answered him.

Tale 32

A young couple was talking sitting at the terrace of a bar.
They had undoubtedly forgotten the world. Moreover, that day, the world itself could be forgotten. The cloudy sky extinguished every vestige of color on the desert square.
Their words were like powerful hands, clutching clumsily.
The young man had said:

To sacrifice everything for you!

And so the girl asked him:

To sacrifice is one thing.
But what about giving ?
To me, What would you give to me ?

The young man said nothing.

Tale 80

Literary publications left him with a curious impression. As if the reviews had been finely sliced plates of literature. On being consumed, the many tastes fused together. And, from a distance, the plates themselves merged into a great mosaic.
He would have liked to decipher the pattern they were drawing.
It only seemed to have been agreed that they would contain something, a style, a taste: something which, if you could possess it, known it, would mean you were no longer a complete stranger to the world which produced it.

Was this only an impression ?
A mere impression ?

He asked himself.

Tale 117

When he awoke, the sky was very pure and clear. Only little white clouds were left, which the wind from the Alps drove away toward the sea. The day before, a contrary wind had carried rain clouds toward lands.
He wrote:

Of yesterday's clouds
Only scraps remain
May sky.

His morning was taken up writing post-cards. He had just received from a friend a long disjointed letter telling him about life of the spirit.
He sent him back these words:

That patient an blind fever for growing up,
its miraculous side,
some weeds in the crack of a wall,
and its necessary side,

And so he read Aristotle's « Psychology », in which he looked for inspiration for his little abstract pencil drawings.
He said that « Psychology » was not a good translation for « Pery psyche » ; he preferred « On life ».
The next day, the wind having fallen, he left for the beach, taking with him « The Meteorologica ». He expected from it some sublime remarks about rain and fine weather.
When he arrived, he noted this impressions of his walk:

In the mist of dawn
Undergrowth and root-tiles
Are equally pale.

Tale 126

For many people, February is a hard time of the year. Already weary of winter, its end isn't yet in sight. That day, he didn't get up for work.
It was late when he went out to get some cigarettes, and his first cup of coffee, facing the sea.
Through the glass he saw that the sun was already very high. He discovered at the same time that winter was not far from ending, and that the fatigue he had felt invading his limbs that morning was actually an intense desire to be lazy.
He began writing lines on post-cards. On the first he said:

The sun is warning the earth
Already the almond tree's flowers
Have replaced the snow.

He addressed it to his lady friend. On the second, he wrote:

Cars come and go
To the « cafe de la Corniche »
And my memory purrs.

He hesitated for a long time as to the order of the lines, and finally decided not to change it. He only crossed out the « and » in the last line. He sent this card to a friend, then wrote on the third:

Without those distant white ripples
On the sea, we wouldn't know
The wind has risen.

19 Tales from the Southeast has been first published in France under the title:
19 Contes du Sud-Est by l'Atelier d'Endoume, with lithographies of Georges Point.

The tale 117 has been published in French Action Poétique.
All the others tales are unpublished.

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