Louise Desjardins

Translated by Madeleine Stratford

Mestizo Skies

Excerpts from Ciels métissés (Trois-Rivières: Les Écrits des Forges, 2014).

An iguana on the terrace
near the pool expels
a slimy fetus
surrounded with flies and
flamenco hibiscus blooms

Hemingway makes his way
from Key West to Havana
stringing shark-like words I devour
as I lie on a fake beach among
skewered body kebabs

I think of my old man
who hated the sea
too great and too mighty
impossible to tame


You make a new land your own
speaking a second language
to flee from your mother’s milk
and remember your heart
black and blue
and words of hardened steel

Near a forsaken house
standing on piles
you swim in an icy lake
desires chilled to the bone
praying in the name of the father
the mother and the son

And cast off all knotted chains of love
running away to the ends of the earth

Louise_DesjardinsAbitibi-born Louise Desjardins has published a dozen poetry books, including La 2e Avenue (Hexagone, 1995), shortlisted for a Governor General Award in 1995. Her first novel, La Love, (Leméac, 1993) was awarded the Grand Prix du Journal de Montréal and the Prix des Arcades de Bologne. She has published several other novels, including Rapide-Danseur (2012), short stories, Cœurs braisés (2001), and a biography of Pauline Julien, La vie à mort (1999). These translations are from her latest poetry book, Ciels métissés (Écrits des Forges, 2014).


Madeleine Stratford is a poet, a literary translator and a professor at the Université du Québec en Outaouais. She has published translations in various journals, including Calque, Corresponding Voices, and Alba Londres. Her French translation of Ce qu’il faut dire a des fissures by Tatiana Oroño (L’Oreille du Loup, 2012) was awarded the 2013 John Glassco Prize by the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada. She participated in the 2014 Banff Literary Translation Centre Program for her French translation of stories by Marianna Apostolides for La Peuplade. @MadoStratford