Excerpt In Translation

Pugnacious and Flamboyant

an excerpt from Faire l’amour

by Anne-Marie Olivier

Nouveau projet, 2014


Anne-Marie Olivier’s play talks frankly and funnily about sex, with each scene based on a true story. It speaks of love, desire, breakups, and frustration. Marie-Claude Plourde’s translation of a scene from the play, “Pugnacious and Flamboyant,” brings across the pain and poetry into English for the first time.


A loving, uninhibited woman.

 

Rosa, my grandmother, in her housewife dress,

with her hair flying in the wind, her smile too broad,

with eyes shining like no other.

 

Inflammatory and tender, furiously beautiful, fiercely alive.

 

At twelve years old her father has already deflowered her and every night,

huddled in her little child’s bed,

full of terror, she hosts the slimy snake.

The man breathes hard on top of her.

She experiences what she called “the worst thing in the world.”

 

That thing, it’s enough to deface the picture,

to kill the fun it could give.

It twists one’s sexuality.

It chars it, stiffens it up.

 

Her first children are her half-brothers, half-sisters.

 

Later when a husband is found who accepts her like this,

everybody rejoices, not her.

 

There was not one woman who wanted Wilfred the old bachelor,

Wilfred with his wrinkled potato face.

No humour, no manners, sourness on two legs.

Rosa protests, vomits, screams, and storms.

 

For her it’s clear, unequivocal:

it’s the worst thing in the world that keeps on going,

that takes a different form yet it’s the same road.

The same kind of bloodthirsty leech, irremovable.

The same ungrateful karma weighing her down every step along the way.

But she resolved that nothing and no one would be taking away her joy.

 

The house hosts the wrath, the anger, the screams,

the ten kids grow up between flying utensils

and the corrosive hatred of the spouses.

 

But on summer mornings,

when everybody’s still asleep

Rosa disappears in her luxuriant garden,

behind the squash and Jerusalem artichoke plants, the giant sunflowers and tobacco leaves.

Ass in the air, hands in the dirt.

Skirt to the wind, ladybugs at her neck

and dawn all around.

 

My grandmother in her all-green realm,

her garden of survival,

where I walk feeling like a sprite because the tomato plants are twice as tall as I am.

 

In the garden we don’t talk yet we understand each other.

Everything and nothing happens all at once.

 

She has a gift, a science,

she pats, tastes, and listens.

I can see her still: her dirty nails, her hands full of raspberries, a mint sprig tucked between her teeth.

 

When the insects fuck full blast in the squash flowers, she ain’t repulsed one bit, she thinks ’bout the fruits.

Her children, there’s no limit to her love for them.

 

It’s being constrained that repulses her.

Arms stuck, legs restricted.

Struggling in vain,

being a hole, and then nothing.

 

Come September and Wilfred, despite Rosa’s disagreement,

proceeds with coal tar an’ pitch.

He asphalts the whole garden,

uproots, mows, chops, crushes,

to park his late-model Plymouth.

A nice parking spot, something clean.

 

The house trembles before Rosa’s fury.

Doors are slammed, dishes smashed,

tears of rage run down

like nails on a blackboard.

 

It scratches her inner 45 record,

as though she was being forced, strangled again

’til she yields,

’til the dam bursts, ’til the pain screams

and blackens everything else.

 

She’s got all it takes to demolish the car,

break the windows, pour gas all over it, blow it up.

But she turns grey and stops eating instead.

 

Four days later, Wilfred leaves to go hunting.

 

It comes to her like a storm rolls in.

Rosa ignites, grasps the directory, the phone,

calls in two guys with heavy machinery to come break the asphalt.

 

She sees them at the end of the road.

Arms in the air, tears in her eyes, she welcomes them

like people welcomed the tanks in Paris for the Liberation.

She doesn’t care what it costs: “Take it all off!”

Every little crumb must go.

 

Once the job’s done, they leave. End-of-day concert of birds.

Rosa spreads the new garden soil, resows, replants it all,

it’s a matter of dignity, respect, survival,

like the demonstrator in Tiananmen Square.

The only option to be able to look at yourself in the mirror, even when your neck’s blue, even when your face’s destroyed by the blows that life keeps giving and giving again.

 

When he returns, Wilfred notes the apocalyptic disaster.

In the chemistry of his brain, something blows on the spot.

He can keep forcing her to bed, as long as she lives,

she’ll stay wild and rebellious.

 

He relinquishes, hushes, vanquished, and at the end of the next summer, he dies.

 

To celebrate the occasion, Rosa invites everyone from the three surrounding villages, one, two hundred people for a gigantic banquet.

An incredible feast: pies made with fruit from her garden, chickens from the henhouse.

She put her magic touch in er’thing.

People go crazy when they take a bite.

 

You can call me crazy if you want but I’m telling you

that it’s through her food

that she made love for the first time.

In a group, kinda.

 

As for me, I was just a little girl, I still shudder at the thought of it all.

The overflow, the neighbours, the cousins, the harmonious mishmash.

It felt like everything, the sun, the flies, the guests’ good humour, the blades of grass, the cases of beer, the temperature of the river, the density of the atmosphere, everything was aligned to make the occasion historic.

 

I am a descendant of the worst thing in the world.

My balcony on Second Avenue

is overflowing with bionic tomato plants.

And I have resolved that nothing and no one will be taking away my joy.

 

PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32Translation by Marie-Claude Plourde