What time is it I’m happy there’s a tree
The war atomic power happy there’s a tree
That thousand billionth bird wiped out a tree
The promise of a forest of forgetting of I’m off
What time of evening like what time of morning
Here’s a tree straight up and filling both my eyes
The page the landscape or the window you could say
A human being dying every second there’s a tree
Where the girl in the swing is swinging herself to air
La joie in what times countries if you like de vivre
There’s a tree, though, just here right outside
From rise to set its forking lines connect
The moon and sun the sun and moon
A tree that travels perfectly a tree.
The boy gives back the mango at the till too dear
He hasn’t got enough to pay for it no way
He didn’t sweat enough his cash-flow has run dry
His euros hours of work are not enough he hasn’t won
The jackpot yet his eyes are black his eyebrows frown
With worry skin like bronze from relishing the sun
The mango’s suddenly the weight of all his pains
On the little scales for fruit and vegetables
And it still smells of mango from Peru Brazil
That oily yellow resin and brown turpentine
The best ones come from Mali which you never find
In France where this boy works and now
Nothing he leaves that’s it the way he came
No wherewithal you’re welcome insufficient coin.
Valérie Rouzeau, Talking Vrouz, Arc Publications, England, 2013
Translated from the French by Susan Wicks
Courtesy Susan Wicks and Arc Publications
Valérie Rouzeau was born in 1967 in Burgundy, France, and now lives in Nevers. She has published fourteen poetry titles, including Pas revoir (le dé bleu, 1999), Va où (Le temps qu’il fait, 2002 ; La Table Ronde, 2015) and more recently Quand Je Me Deux (Le temps qu’il fait, 2009) and Vrouz (La Table ronde, 2012).
She has also published volumes translated from Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, Ted Hughes, Stephen Romer and the photographer Duane Michals. She has been the editor of a little review of poetry for children (from 5 to 117 years old) called dans la lune, and lives mainly by her pen through public readings, poetry workshops in schools, radio broadcasts and translation.
The English translation of Pas Revoir, Cold Spring in Winter, was shortlisted for the International Griffin Prize for Poetry in 2010. Her most recent collection, Vrouz, was the winner of France’s Apollinaire Prize in 2012 and the English translation by Susan Wicks, titled Talking Vrouz (poems from both collections Quand je me deux and Vrouz) won the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize in 2014.