Gilberte H. Dallas

Translated by Dominique Russell

Three poems from Alphabet de soleils


The banner of your body floats in the Brandenburg wind.
An old woman wants to come in, I
can see her through the door, her red felt hand
pressing in vain on the latch, scraps
of her cries come at me like the barbaric
song of a violin mending the night;
I’m going to slip a rose under the door
a black-blooded rose, maybe she’ll go away?
And I could wallow in the bramble hammock
but her voice hiccups: Ophelia
My name is Ophelia, open the door, O-phe-lia…
—What do I care about her grotesque distortions
What lie will she bring me? Why
doesn’t she extend it to me through the sheets
of sand the way she extends her name…Ophelia
Ophelia, her shadow ricochets in the aura
of my dusk. Ophelia, her voice grates
like a leper’s rattle, philia, figlia…


Let’s catapult the conchoidal colocynth
Let’s catapult the choephori of the coliddors of the tifth
and the mitten cruncher, the tomcat cruncher, crunchers of sheep
note cruncher, crunch-in-your-mouth and in arms and in deaths.
Let’s catapult the lynx and the oriole’s cochineal mantilla
let’s catapult the mango
and the mongoose, shoo!


I’ve plunged my insatiable thirst into the seaweed of your body at rest on the anvil, splendid carrion, treasure of the Galapagos I’ve plunged my hands into your entrails and taken out the Black Lady’s stone dress, stones of grasses, of water and sky, stones of suns and sons.
I’ve plunged my hands into your womb, I’ve taken out the wooden horse, white as a star, its tulip harness.
I’ve plunged my hands and face into your rotting flesh and taken out your heart gnawed by a big cat, your heart that continues to beat in the pit of my hands more alive than Koh-i-Noor, more precious than the sea’s chariot.
I’ve embraced your stiff breasts, beautiful as permanence, and your mouth, crocus of ash said: hate.
Your eyes repeated it again as I raised your eyelids oh! Madeleine.
Then with a turn I excavated the pearl inlaid in your temple.
What erupted were voracious breezes that made your mind a tatter of blue.

Dallas Gilberte HGilberte Dallas, whose real name was Gilberte Herschtel, was a French actor, poet and painter, 1918-1960. Dallas wrote one book: what her friend psychoanalyst and critic Anne Clancier described as hundreds of pages of writing distilled to 26 poems, an Alphabet of Suns. It was published by French poet and publisher Pierre Shegers in an edition of 200 copies in 1952. 8 copies remain scattered in libraries.


Dominique Russell is the author of Kensington, I Remember and Instructions for Dreamers, forthcoming from Swimmer's Group. Other work has appeared in journals such as Dispatches, Arc and The Fiddlehead. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three children.