Monday, April 30, 2018

Parisien Vignettes

I. Mansard Dreams at the Tuilleries
People in green chairs, a rarefied air where the real
Won’t protrude on the idée, where a crow glares
Atop marbled hair, like a priest says “Vive la guerre!”
Before the fountain, as gypsies trade in compassion
And free-range guitar threads the conversation
Through statues of women, all naked.
I’d declare, “The flowers are short, sculpture is long”
But the poet chairs are roped off: Too fragile.

II. The Haunting of French Painting
Monet creates … his own world
To save us from the one that calls.
A demi-glace of lilac frisson
To veil where light is pure
Abstraction. The source as void permits
All fates: Watery erasures, elaborate refusals,
A few boughs of earth in the spirit maze
Add solidity to cloud, gas to marsh grass,
Takes time back from the sundial.

For Van Gogh, the dry earth comes too hard:
No metaphysical haystacks and cathedrals for him
But ones you can taste, that taste like defeat
Starry nights when the moths die at your feet,
End of an era of light.

Eternal friend Gauguin mourns how one can’t
Have pity, only call for the colors from every aperture:
Prussian Blue, Helios Red, Raw Sienna.
You cannot be Christ
If you’re looking.

Everyone’s done their self-portrait
On the wall of the art supply store:
Every possible choice within limited means of vision.
It’s overwhelmingly close, not that impossible horizon of
lapis noire … gris de payne … vert moyen … ocre de chair …
The kept phallus of the woman Paris rose in light
As the clouds roamed the Seine and I realized why
The Impressionists failed so totally.

III. In a Station of the Metro
The subway speaks above the Gallic purr,
Some voice that had gone missing in the lust for contact,
An echo in the chasm of loss, as if through Gothic stone,
Sacred archways of emptiness tuned to instruction frequencies
From saxophones and steel drums off white ceramic walls
That weave between the realms in reams of sound
Jumpy and forlorn, as silent to the way things are
As riders with their hopeful eyes and pursing lips,
For love is always waiting, however long the pause,
However faint the flicker through the windows.

The stations are emblazoned in blue, and all the stops
Are at Saints: Saint Lazare, Saint Francois, Saint Denis.
The pilgrims take their bags and coats
And journey to the light. The sound below
From grates above has something of the street,
The distant hum of memories builds a nest,
A palimpsest where what is lost can rest.

IV. The Birth of Kings
Through golden glass, dust floats in heaven’s obsolescence
With tales of the cross preserved in words of mortal slavery.
Saint-Chappelle, where kings are crowned, next to the court
Of “LIBERTÉ, ÉGALITÉ, FRATERNITÉ”,
Cedes nothing to the freedom of the people to be
Other than equally invisible.
The crowned Madonna welcomes you with supercilious glare
As the Baby beams out petulant to the suckers at His toes.
The angels and the cardinals bow before an idea
Of overwhelming gold and blue sky glass.
The saints have turned to stone – they’re clinging to the roof.
The monks walk up in circles with their candles
Spreading light on scenes of agony that bring comfort to the room.
The halo-red apostles who with one hand hold a dove
Wield in the other a sword. They have forsaken the world
And Greco-Roman bodily perfection, to be giants in a realm
Where the heavens have closed in.

V. The Death of Gods
The cold marble of burial: Clovis, Carloman, Pepin Le Bref
With scepter, crown and lions even in death,
Jeanne de Bourbon with her dogs forever tiny at her feet,
The heart of Louis 17 on display if not still on trial.
They pray in marbled flowing robes of white
Save one black crypt: “Reine – identification incertaine.” 
But in fact the strictest scholarly tradition of France
Can’t vouchsafe said bones belong to said kings,
Rescued as they were from pauper’s graves after the crazy days
Of the bloody Revulsion, when they came with spades
To St. Denis to prey. They say the bones of Antoinette, Marie
Were brought back here intact. But the common ossuary
Of Merovingian royalty suggests otherwise.
The anointed ones were anything but martyrs
Before the peasants moved their bones, but now they glow,
In suspended state, a renunciation miracle.

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