Poetry In Motion.


Photo provided courtesy of Tripping On Air

This week’s graffiti is special in a lot of ways. First and most important it’s the first reader submission: this one comes courtesy of Tripping On Air which is a fun and inspiring blog.

And this is a fun and even inspiring piece of graffiti. The artist labels it a haiku. Technically it would be more appropriate to call it a senryu since haikus are traditionally about nature while senryus are about people. Except both haikus and senryus have that 5-7-5 syllable structure and this has more of a 6-4-6 structure. Here it is:

J’ai dormi dans des trains,

je t’y ai fait,

l’amour, comme dans un rêve

And here’s my translation:

In trains I have slept.

It was in them I loved you,

As though in a dream.

Yeah, I went with the 5-7-5 structure although technically senryus are also supposed to be humorous. I’ve never forgotten the first senryu I ever read even though I don’t remember where I read it: “As he feels her up/she has turned her attention/only to the cat.”

So anyway the graffiti is breaking all kinds of poetry rules but that’s okay. Poetry can be an unruly art form that has to break the rules and there’s nothing that breaks the rules like graffiti.

And this graffitied poem also makes me think of a longer poem about love on a train. Here’s Carolyn Forché’s For The Stranger from her book The Country Between Us. You can also go here to hear her read the poem.

Although you mention Venice
keeping it on your tongue like a fruit pit
and I say yes, perhaps Bucharest, neither of us
really knows. There is only this train
slipping through pastures of snow,
a sleigh reaching down
to touch its buried runners.
We meet on the shaking platform,
the wind’s broken teeth sinking into us.
You unwrap your dark bread
and share with me the coffee
sloshing into your gloves.
Telegraph posts chop the winter fields
into white blocks, in each window
the crude painting of a small farm.
We listen to mothers scolding
children in English as if
we do not understand a word of it–
sit still, sit still.

There are few clues as to where
we are: the baled wheat scattered
everywhere like missing coffins.
The distant yellow kitchen lights
wiped with oil.
Everywhere the black dipping wires
stretching messages from one side
of a country to the other.
The men who stand on every border
waving to us.

Wiping ovals of breath from the windows
in order to see ourselves, you touch
the glass tenderly wherever it holds my face.
Days later, you are showing me
photographs of a woman and children
smiling from the windows of your wallet.

Each time the train slows, a man
with our faces in the gold buttons
of his coat passes through the cars
muttering the name of a city. Each time
we lose people. Each time I find you
again between the cars, holding out
a scrap of bread for me, something
hot to drink, until there are
no more cities and you pull me
toward you, sliding your hands
into my coat, telling me
your name over and over, hurrying
your mouth into mine.
We have, each of us, nothing.
We will give it to each other.

Seen any graffiti? Email your pics to freethinkers@nerosoft.com. Recent history has shown I’ll give you full credit.

Facebook Comments


  1. Library Heather

    Thanks for sharing the poetry. It’s lovely. I always forget how much I like poetry until it’s right in front of me.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Sometimes I also forget how much I like poetry which is strange because the whole reason I majored in English in college was to study poetry. Verse and I have kind of grown apart over the years.

  2. Ann Koplow

    Thank you for all the poetry in this post, Chris.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poetry. I briefly considered saving all this for April, which, being the cruelest month, is also National Poetry Month, but I somehow felt holding this for that long would be even crueler.

  3. Tripping

    This was lovely. Thank you.
    I found this graffiti in the train station at Marseille last year. It’s probably gone by now. I like to wonder what the person who wrote it would think of us over on this side of the ocean a year later discussing their poem.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you for sharing it. I wondered where you found it. It’s the nature of graffiti to be transient and it’s nice that sometimes little examples like this get saved. I hope the poet would be thrilled we’re saving it.

  4. Sandra

    Oh my… ~fans self~ These poems were all a tad risqué and very lovely.
    I must clarify the first haiku/senryu – The translation “I have slept in trains. It was in them I made love to you as if in a dream”…~still fanning self~

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you so much for correcting my translation. I’ve never formally studied French but just picked up a bit here and there. That makes it fit with Forche’s poem even better.


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