In the face of bankruptcy : A creative solution to "resserrer les cordons de la bourse"
Dents de Sagesse & Purée! + A popular cuss word substitute

Metal, Bois, Fer - Meet my Belle-soeur! + Bilingual side-by-side text (new!)

Coffee tables mirrors iron wood france
Mirrors and coffee tables and a paravent, or screen, made by my belle-soeur, who is a welder, and artisan, and un amour. Read on.

30-Day French will teach you everything you need to know to speak French on your next trip to France with 30 lessons based on real-life conversations. Try it out.

TODAY'S WORD: le fer

        : iron

le chemin de fer = railroad
le fer à repasser = iron (for shirts, slacks, etc)
le bras de fer = the game of arm-wrestling
le fer à cheval = horseshoe

Try Mastering French Vocabulary with Audio MP3


Soundfile: Listen to Jean-Marc read this French sentence

Fer. Aujourd'hui je vous présente ma soeur, un artisan qui travaille le bois et le fer.
Iron. Today I'd like to introduce you to my sister, a craftsperson who works with wood and iron.

Improve your spoken French with Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics


I was wondering about how best to introduce my belle-soeur, Cécile, when a page on her website caught my eye. Clicking on it, I found a poem she wrote in place of a biography.

I took a short cut and included Google's translation of Cécile's poem. I happen to like its rough-around-the-edgesness which adds another layer of soul to the poem. The translation is clunky and not always fitting--like the wooden and metal rejects my belle-soeur rescues. So I am giving you an assignment today: find a more precise word each time you see one that just doesn't cut it and share it in the comments (link at the end of this post). Together with Cécile we will all be artisans today: word artisans and artisans tout court.

This is only an introduction. If  you would like me to share more of Cécile and her work, be sure to say so in the comments.

Note: It took time to figure out how to put in the following two-column table into this post, but it could be a helpful way to present bilingual text in the future. What do you think? I hope it shows up intact in your email (let me know in the comments at the end of post).


Fouiller les bennes,
démailler les tonnes d'acier
régurgitées par l'industrie.

Il y a l’œil qui cherche,
Qui se pose, qui dicte à la main
De prendre : là.
D'extirper de l'amas un fragment.
Le dépoussiérer, le caresser,
Le sentir du bout des doigts.
Extraire du tas enchevêtré
Des pièces non conformes, hors d'usage.

Il y a le grain et la fibre
Les tons qui se déclinent.
Il y a l'odeur qui accompagne
La main qui caresse ou qui hésite.

Sous l'écorce la patine qui éclôt.
Le mouvement chauffe la matière,
Lui offre un éclat.
Le bois respire.

L'atelier est un poumon
Qui abrite et donne le gîte.
Il y a les mains sales qui savent,
Sentent, touchent, embrassent,
Ou coupent mais apprivoisent.

Fusion des genres et matières.
Alliage des bois et des métaux.

L'intimité est en chantier.
Digging the skips,
Unravel tons of steel
Regurgitated by industry.

There is the eye that seeks,
Who arises, who dictates by hand
To take: there.
To extract a fragment from the cluster.
The dust, the caress,
Feel it with your fingertips.
Extract from the entangled pile
Non-conforming parts, out of use.

There is grain and fiber
Tones that decline.
There is the odor that accompanies
The hand that caresses or hesitates.

Under the bark the patina that hatches.
The movement heats the matter,
He offers a shine.
The wood breathes.

The workshop is a lung
Who shelters and gives the lodging.
There are dirty hands that know,
Feel, touch, embrace,
Or cut but tame.

Fusion of genres and materials.
Alloy of wood and metals.

Intimacy is under construction.



Cecile jean-marc martha charles atelier fer bois marseilles
Our special tour of Marseilles last week included a stop at Cécile's atelier, near the popular cultural Friche Belle de Mai. She is one of 10 artisans sharing this space.
Fer bois cecile paravent
Take a minute and follow my belle-soeur on Instagram. She is beginning to post pictures of her work! Click here to see a table she remade for me
Jean-marc 50
Jean-Marc turned 50 last week! Behind him, one of the mirrors Cécile made. Photo by Sandra Zirah


A bench Cécile made us, on the right. There is a much better photo of it at her website. And for any inquiries, do not hesitate to contact Cécile here: [email protected]
One of Cécile's work stations. Did you enjoy meeting my sister-in-law via her poem and her work? Which pieces or phrases stood out? (I love "The workshop is a lung" "L'atelier est un poumon") Share your thoughts in the comments.


le fer = iron
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
un paravent = a screen
un amour = a love
tout court = period, plain, simply

Stories you may have missed:
A story about my frangine, or sister-in-law, a French Robinhood


Sablet home rental village accommodation where to stay in provence france
  SABLET HOME- for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Click here for photos and more details.

AMAZON GIFT CARDS - for that hard-to-buy-for one on your list!

FRENCH GOURMET ITEMS - including herbs, mustard, coffee, tisane, chocolate, cakes


PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet and great gift for those who love Paris. Click here.

THE FRENCH LOVE THESE TOWELS - quick drying, good-looking


Lavender and vine tour provence france photography markets wine tastings

Experience Provence on a Lavender & Vine small group tour. Discover secret lavender fields, markets, Roman sites, private wine-tastings. Relax in a village home.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Julie Borders

I like the 2 columns, but to get both on my little phone screen, I
have to get my readers out!


Love to know more about Cecile. By the way, she and Jackie have a strong resemblance.

Sarah La Belle

Le dépoussiérer, le caresser, le sentir du bout des doigts
I think that is
Dust it, caress it, feel it with your fingertips.

That is fascinating work she does. I could see the 2 columns, and for this it was good.
It is also fine when there is a paragraph in French, then one in English.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you all for the feedback, and Sarah, for this translation. 

In the email I received the last lines of the text were cut off. Please check the blog for the full poem. 

Caro Feely

Hi Kristin - I love love love that poem - It would be great to hear more about Cecile.


I really like this line: Le mouvement chauffe la matière, as it gives me a visual of the work of her hands. But I visualize her preciously “warming” (réchauffe ?) the wood rather than heating it.
Her ending is most precious: L'intimité est en chantier. Intimacy under construction. What a lovely way to describe her work.

Mike Young

My own preference is not to hve two columns. As always, I switched from the e mail to the web version, where the columns appeared in an easily readable format. I found myself tempted to flit from one to the other, rather than concentrating on understanding the French. Dusting the French learnt more than half a century ago is why I enjoy your columns so much Kristi - and the photographs, I have to add.

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

Yes, very good side-by-side. Always interesting to know the family and friends! Merci.

Mike Young

One other thing I should have said. My choice would have been for a tag to click to see the English translation - if I couldn't read the French well.

Incidentally, i see that I've have been subscribed for over eight years. Promise not to stop, Kristi.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Mike!


Merci, Kristi. Le travail de Cécile est superbe.
Je vous remercie pour nous introduire à elle et son bel ouvrage.

Nancy Stilwagen

I am no one to offer translations, as my French is very poor. However, I notice that when I use the Google translator for emails in French, it really has a problem with pronouns. Often it will translate as 'he' when clearly it is about a female. Are French pronouns so neutral? I didn't think that was the case...

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Nancy, I see what you mean, and noticed this with the translation. Will be interesting to see how Google improves. I have noticed their system is getting better. 

Tina Cauller

I spent my 50th birthday visiting Avignon and Provence, a trip which fulfilled a lifelong dream. It was the answer to so many of the questions and longings that the milestone date brought forth. I hope you have a fulfilling, adventurous bonne anniversaire!


Kristin... Love the 2 columns! Fait accompli! Cecile has the true heart of the poet! Her artistic works are very imaginative and great. I love 'your table', if that was ours... I would give anything to find one here abouts. so far, no luck.. Maybe i better get back to France and start looking! Judi, Tallahassee, Fl.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Judi. Cécile will be happy to see these notes.

Robert Bewell

Bilingual text, a great idea, long may it continue. The register is not always accurate but close enough to work it out. Not so good is that every line begins with a capital letter even when it is a continuation of a sentence. I always look forward to reading your blog. I have been subscribed for years and years and years. Congratulations, Robert

Sarah La Belle

I am on the web page. I did not see what google would say, but I did now. It wants to make it
Dusting, caressing, feeling it with your fingertips. Google's version is rarely elegant even if more or less correct,
I think. Verb form does not match the poetry of votre belle-soeur.
You can add dépoussiérer to the list of words challenging to pronounce. It is a new word to me, too.
The web page has all the photos, I go to it quickly from the e-mail.


Our dear Kristi,
Today's post is wonderful!Love meeting/learning about your gifted family!Cecile truly is an artisan!And a poetess!
Especially enjoyed the two columns.Helped me a lot to glance from one side(French) to the other(translation);even more so when it is an original work rather than something,say, from a known book.
Beautiful pictures to accompany.
How fortunate we are to share in your life!
Natalia. xo

Gwyneth Perrier

Ouah, I love Cécile's work! I really do. I just started following her Instagram account, too. Et, joyeux anniversaire, Jean-Marc ! I missed that last week. 50 is a good age. :-)

edie schmidt


Yes, please more about your free spirited belle soeur Cecile.
Loved the poem tho' it's hard to translate poetry from one language
to another. Maybe the spirit of the poem is instilled in the language it is written in?

Edie from Savannah

Lynne Schweitzer

Loved this linguistic exercise! Thanks. Beautiful poem!


Adding to Sarah and Nancy's comments, I can point out that "qui" does not always mean "who". "L'atelier est un poumon qui...." The studio is a lung which ... (not who)....

Except for a translation in progress, such as this poem, I vote against side by side translation, which makes it too easy to give up.

I like the poem. Joan


J'aime le website un petit peu mieux que Google traduit. Leur traduction est ci-dessous; j'ai enlevé tous les synonymes entre parenthèses - fyi. Ou serait-il "P.V.I"? Pour votre information? :)
Search trucks, unravel tons of steel regurgitated by the industry.

There is an eye which looks,
Which settles, who dictates to the hand
To take: there.
To extirpate of the heap a fragment.
Dust it, cherish it,
Smell it with the fingertips.
Extract from the muddled heap
Not corresponding, out-of-service parts.

There is a grain and a fiber
The tones which come.
There is a smell which accompanies
The hand which cherishes or which hesitates.

Under the bark the patina which opens.
The movement warms the subject,
He offer a brightness.
The wood breathes.

The studio is a lung
Who shelters and gives the holiday cottage.
There are the dirty hands which know,
Smell, touch, embrace,
Or cut but tame.

Fusion of the kinds and the materials.
Alloy of wood and metals.

The intimacy is under construction.
J'aime toutes les petites différences. Et j'apprécie le français et l'anglais côte à côte, puisque je ceci ai lu sur mon ordinateur et pas à un téléphone.

Merci beaucoup pour partager votre belle-soeur avec nous, vos lecteurs.


Wow! I love the poem and Cecile's beautiful work.

Joan Jacobson

I do like the two column approach with the vocabulary. On my computer, when there was an additional space in the left column on a few occasions, the right column became misaligned; but those of us who are familiar with French, could easily discern the correct translation of the terms.


Your sister-in-law is quite the artist, both in wood and words! Her work is beautiful.

As do some of your other readers, I like the side-by-side format- just wish it weren't so diificult to format for you.

What I don't like is Google Translation in general, and of Cecile's poem in particular.

I haven't had time to review each line, but was struck by the first.

I believe what Cecile is saying is more akin to: "Rummaging (or sifting) through dumpsters"...


beautiful tables such a talent thank you for sharing

Kathy C

She is very talented! I love her work.

Barbara Kelley

I would start the poem with "dumpster diving"...

Chris Allin

Love your thought on the spirit of the poem...

Diane Young

I had no problem with side by side except, as another reader noted, they didn't always match up/ What was wonderful was imagining the beauty and warmth of the things Cecile makes. Nothing more beautiful than a handmade "chose" made of a lovely piece of wood. Quelle artiste!


Well done Kristi on the new improved and very neat alignment of texts which I saw today. On my PC they are in neat boxes - just 2 - and on my iPad no boxes show but the alignment is perfect now. BUT the comments won't show on my PC though they are here on my iPad. Oh the horrors of technology. But it may just be a freak wind or something. I'll say a little prayer and then re-boot.

Jean-Marie Mider

Kristi, here is my interpretation of Cecile's poem:

Fouiller les bennes, Dumpster hunting
démailler les tonnes d'acier Sorting left over pieces of stainless steel recycled from the industry
régurgitées par l'industrie.

Il y a l’œil qui cherche, Your eyes do the searching and tell you this piece is the one you can use
Qui se pose, qui dicte à la main
De prendre : là.
D'extirper de l'amas un fragment. Find a gem in the dumpster, dust it off, touch it, and take it
Le dépoussiérer, le caresser,
Le sentir du bout des doigts.
Extraire du tas enchevêtré
Des pièces non conformes, hors d'usage. Find something others cannot use

Il y a le grain et la fibre There is grain, fiber and variant shades of color and scent blending
Les tons qui se déclinent. together as your hand hesitates to take it or not
Il y a l'odeur qui accompagne
La main qui caresse ou qui hésite.

Sous l'écorce la patine qui éclôt. Pieces aged and improved by time develop a warm glow that explodes
Le mouvement chauffe la matière,
Lui offre un éclat.
Le bois respire. Wood pieces breath with age

L'atelier est un poumon The worshop is like a living thing that makes it your home
Qui abrite et donne le gîte.
Il y a les mains sales qui savent, Your working hands feel, touch and embrace or improvise
Sentent, touchent, embrassent,
Ou coupent mais apprivoisent.

Fusion des genres et matières. Marriage of style and material in concert of wood and metal
Alliage des bois et des métaux.

L'intimité est en chantier. The entire shop is a project and a work in progress

Joanne Ablan

Merci beaucoup, Kristin, pour votre jolie poste. Il y a beaucoup de printemps retrouvé dans ce qu'on a refusé, n'est-ce pas?
Bon anniversaire à J-M.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)