This poem was originally published in the Middlebury College French Gazette. I wrote it while I was auditing their 7-week total immersion language program. It was exhausting, but by Week 3, I was writing poetry in French. I’ll provide the English translation first, and then the original French. It was inspired by a common phrase in French “Quand j’etais petite” which means “When I was little.” (Photo by Albrecht Fietz.)
The Little One
When I was little I hid myself In the armoire Where the cobwebs Trembled Lilac and livid Flowing From the fabrics.
When I was little I danced With the strange children Where the trees Grew Dark and wild Whispering Their secrets.
When I was little I played Between the mausoleums Where the flowers Mouldered Bitter and bent Blackening The angels.
When I was little Sometimes the dead Spoke. But When you are little You don’t have a choice You don’t have a choice.
So, I listened.
Quand j’étais petite Je me cachais Dans l’armoire Où les toiles Tremblaient Lilas et livides Coulaient Des tissus.
Quand j’étais petite Je dansais Avec des enfants étranges Où les arbres Croissaient Sombres et sauvages Chuchotaient Ses secrets.
Quand j’étais petite Je jouais Entre les mausolées Où les fleurs Pourrissaient Pénibles et pliés Noircissaient Les anges.
Quand j’étais petite Parfois les morts Parlaient… Mais Quand tu es petite Tu n’as pas de choix Tu n’as pas de choix.
I’ve been falling out of love with cinematic horror for some time, as I find most American horror uninspired, badly written, or too dependent on gore and jumpscares. (Often all of the above.) If being grossed out is your thing, more power to you. But for me, I need something a lot more sophisticated.
Fortunately, Netflix has been delivering some incredible horror TV from foreign markets, especially France. These three French shows are some of the best horror I’ve ever seen.
1. Les Revenants (The Returned)
This show was originally released in 2012, but was new to me in 2014. It was even made into a completely inferior American version. While I wasn’t enchanted by Season 2, the first season of this utterly original “zombie” story was breathtaking.
People who have been dead for years — in some cases decades — start returning home, utterly unaware that they died in the first place. Most in fact died under violent circumstances. And that’s just before the story goes truly bonkers. The powerful emotions this show evokes deepen the dread of this paranormal tale in a way that one rarely ever finds in horror. For me, that’s what makes this show one of my all-time favorites.
2. Black Spot (Zone Blanche)
I’m completely wild about this show because hits three sweet spots for me:
It’s a bloody police procedural with a new mystery in every episode and an overarching mystery each season.
It’s unexpectedly hilarious at times with wonderful characters like the gay policeman named Teddy Bear and the hyperallergic, ultra-awkward detective Siriani.
It’s pagan AF. Set in the mountainous, isolated Villefranche, which has an insanely high murder rate and a monster that resembles Cernunnos, the story blends France’s Celtic history with horror in a very satisfying way.
I also adore the main character, Major Laurène Weiss, chief of police. The women are all tough, complicated, and secretive — she more than anyone. While I was initially puzzled by her relationship with Bertrandt, the story behind their bond was eventually revealed. And, wow — c’est fou, y’all.
Season 3 is rumored to be headed to Netflix in June 2020. I can’t wait!
With Marianne, writer and showrunner Samuel Bodin has created something as intoxicating and frightening as The Ring. This outstanding original horror series is about a famous female horror author, Emma Larsimon, who is lured back to her hometown to do battle with the evil spirit that has been terrorizing her dreams and that is now killing her loved ones. Every episode starts with a literary quote. You know shit’s about to get more than real when Lovecraft opens an episode.
Victoire Du Bois (Call Me By Your Name) plays the arrogant, alcoholic Emma to perfection, especially as Marianne’s bloodshed brings Emma to her knees. But as the layers are peeled back on the characters and the horror they face, it’s forgiveness and the strength of female friendship that entwine to become the twin heartbeats of this tale.