A couple of months ago, when I was still at Middlebury College, I spewed some nonsense in French at everyone about a poem I wrote in French — my first ever — and how it was published in the college gazette. It was a dark little poem brilliantly entitled, “Little.” Actually, a slightly better translation is “The Little One,” because the French use “petite” in the same way as we do “little one” as a term of affection for their children.

Here is a translation of that poem in English.

“The Little One”

by Maria Alexander

When I was little
I would hide myself
In the armoire
Where the webs
Lilac and livid
From the clothes.

When I was little
I would dance
With the strange children
Where the trees
Somber and savage
Their secrets.

When I was little
I would play
Between the mausoleums
Where the flowers
Bitter and bent
The angels.

When I was little
Sometimes the dead
When you are little
You haven’t any choice
You haven’t any choice.

I listened.

Here’s a link to my LiveJournal, where I’ve posted the original French version. Blogger seems to hate foreign characters for some reason.

I’ve translated the imparfait into the conditional in places, as the exact implications of the imparfait are not understood in a straight English past tense translation, I think. Also, sometimes I translate the imparfait into the indicative. At any rate, the above is how I would have written the poem in English, had that been my first try. You’ll just have to believe me that the poem sounds much cooler in French. I’m just now getting a glimpse at the intricacies of translation. It’s a miracle the world isn’t at war, you know?

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