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ISSUE:  Summer 1992
We came with the children up out of the Metro
thinking about the heroes we had seen
on the large dark canvasses in the Louvre, how they knew
to look directly was to be turned to stone, or lost, or to lose
whatever fluttered near the periphery,
the way we know to watch the sun’s eclipse
in a blackened mirror, as one flat disk
slides behind the other:

and thinking too of the driven ones
who’d painted Perseus, Eros and Psyche,
Zeus in his various rich disguises—
who had fixed the unfolding story into a still,
not life-like but like memory—and since the centuries
jumbled in my mind in the grand museum,
I was thinking of Monet, his paintings grown
enormous, the edges of the objects less distinct
as his eyesight failed and Giverny
fell into composite and design.

We meant to get to Rue Mouffetard
before the farmers packed up and went home,
to the plank tables heaped with cherries and beans,
globed onions and pyramids of the little yellow plums
themselves a painting—and took the old route there
up Gobelins, broad avenue
changed but not changed much in twenty years.
Freed from the map, we showed the children
the tiny bright tabac, the public baths,
the borrowed flat we live in, new to each other,
the famous factory behind the gate, its thick brocades
in which the maidens rise from a swirl of vines—

Tapestry is dumb, my son said, like
upholstery, and the four of us concluded on the spot
we were hungry, and stopped at the next cafe
on Avenue des Gobelins, whose weavers
always worked from behind the frame
where knots and stitches steadied the mind,
from time to time parting the warps with their fingers
and peering through, as through tall grass, at the shape
emerging, reversed, in the burnished shield.


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