Lou Sarabadzic

To the happy few

Languages, like immigrants,
must be carefully chosen.
Then and only then
is it decent bilingualism.

Otherwise we call it

Moi aussi je parle un petit peu de français.

Escaping war or conflict
is no proper way to linguistic skills.
Nor is coming from former colonies.
‘So… you speak African?’

Bilingualism is this dream wedding
performed in a fine white dress.
It’s the immaculate story
a passionate you tells smiling guests.

Je l’ai appris à l’école.

In the UK they exulted.
Princess Charlotte is already bilingual.
Aw that’s so cute but what about
the cuteness of Punjabi? I asked myself.

My young neighbour is trilingual
and I didn’t see
rushing to the area
any national news agency.

Je m’épelle John, je vis à Londres.

Sometimes, unlike him, they call me ‘expat.’
If I say ‘immigrant’, they laugh: ‘I don’t see
as an immigrant!’

It’s basic European maths.
You’re not twice as diverse,
but twice as dominant.

Alouette, gentille alouette, alouette je te plumerai.

Language is power.
As former Empires we form an alliance.
Alliance means wedding ring
and I said no. But they carried on anyway.

Translation matters

They say learning French is so hard. How can a chair be female? How come there be no neutral?
They never seem to notice how hard it is for us too. Learning English, meeting them there. It’s not about grammar. Imagine having to deny existence to all the spirits of your home. Imagine unlearning life. Suddenly, a chair isn’t she anymore. She’s it. The violence of it.
Everything dies as we speak, and we watch it all turn into soulless surfaces. We bury them with our words, we hold them close, inert and loved, in silent shrouds.

Don’t say we turn them into stones.

Stones are alive, like goddesses.

Poems on two languages for the use of those in the middle

Global warming
Four is the hottest of numbers.
Sixteen the hardest to seize.

How to say ‘break a leg’ in French
‘Oh, shit!’

The right order
To lounge = to sit in a chaise longue.

Inside Out
If in French, I say: ‘bring me a casserole’, I’m not only rude, but I’m about to cook something.
If in English I say: ‘bring me a casserole’, I’m not only rude, I expect you to have already cooked for me.

A scene at the restaurant
Rare meat?! Yes, indeed. I’ve never seen one in England so far. They say it’s health and safety regulations, something to do with temperature. As always they blame it on the weather

An essay about cultural differences

In France, airport books
are sold in train stations.
          [Romans de gare]
You’d think it’s just about location.
That’s because it is. I just said it.
Also because in French a house of cards
becomes a castle.
          [And we say the British are the monarchist ones]
Anyway, it’s all about places: instead of pouring one last drop in a vase,
in English you put the last straw on a camel’s back.
&    nbsp;     [Notice how evocative the desert]
Now, if you think you only need to master one language
to know where you are,
of course you’re wrong.
          [That’s the privilege of the poet. I get to decide until language shuts me up.]
Take art, for instance.
In French, I was told that Marcel Duchamp faisait des ready-made.
You can imagine my confusion when I was told in England that he made objets trouvés.
          [Couldn’t we just stick to one of these?]
Modern artists, they like to make things complicated.
Linguists didn’t want to be left behind.
They came up with a theory:
if you can master two languages,
then you’re allowed to speak your own.

It’s important to bear in mind, however,
that although it gives you that air of proud arrogance
and free cocktails at exhibition openings,
bilingualism can sometimes lead to quite a few disappointments.
For instance in France, décolletage is hard work in a factory.
It describes the mass-production of metal parts enabling any revolution.
In England, it means: any human décolleté.
          [For an exploration of the link between women’s bodies, neckline, and revolution, see
          Marianne – but otherwise, you’ll agree that this is somewhat misleading]

Fear not about equality.
Deception in men is also quite tangible.
See, groin in France a pig makes.

[that’s its nose]

In England groin makes the man.
The Northern you go, the more below the belt.
The Southern you go, the more into the farm.      [Yes it is all about places]

WOMEN, n. [who mène]

Almost like men
but with
one more syllable.

If not half the men, then,
men almost doubled?
Fe-mme and Ho-mme
evoke another family.
– Mme
that’s what we are.

Mme means Mrs.
I knew all men were women
but they don’t
realise it (yet).

Lou Sarabadzic is French and live in the UK. She has published two books in French: a novel, La Vie Verticale, in 2016, and a poetry collection, Ensemble, in 2017. She also writes in English and have had poems published in Gutter and Morphrog. She has received in January 2018 the Dot Award for Digital Literature for the #NerdsProject: https://nerdsproject.com/. She is a member of Room 204, Writing West Midlands’ writer development program. She also has two French/English bilingual blogs focusing on narrative non-fiction: https://predictedprose.com/ on OCD and mental health, and https://telpere.com/ on a father-daughter relationship.

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