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Dolorès

The middle of winter
In the cold light
Icy waltz on the sidewalks of Montreal.
 
Dolorès is in pain.
Wearing her cheap, musty-smelling fur.
 
Motionless.
Her large white cigarette in one hand
Scarcely lit
The red lighter clutched in the other.
Her stiff leg set down in pain.
 
Near the bus terminal.
On Saint-Hubert, between Ontario and Sainte-Catherine.
Before or after the illuminated glass of beer.
 
Between the makeshift motels
Where black smoke chokes the lungs
Where hard veins warm up
On a mattress of abandonment.
 
A coat of anger, thrown on her shoulders.
Her feet swimming in plastic boots
A hospital jacket, an orange tuque:
A smell of death.
 
Her eyes like two rocks.
 
Over-excited with the snow
She rages:
 
People—I’m scared—People
Blacks—Junkies—Young people—The others
Downtown—People—I’m going to call the police
I’m all alone and I’m scared—I’ve no country
I’m in pain.
 
And we walk
I hold her arm, so frail.
 
She wanders, melancholy when her mind goes blank
Prays to the good lord for having placed me on her path.
 
I don’t look at her.
 
She sniffs, and spits, and shouts.
Levels the whole world unworthy of her existence.
 
A crystal in a blouse of torment.
 
On Saint-Hubert, between Ontario and Sainte-Catherine.
I walked with a ghost.

Translation of "Dolorès." Copyright Christine Germain. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Jonathan Kaplansky. All rights reserved.