In search of pasture, a place to lie down in.
Back to the mother breast
or a dream of return
to the land of the fathers, a land my father
never mentioned, although he could pearl it out
in his impeccable German: Vaterland.
I live, speak
elsewhere. This island.
St. Cloud, Paris
Strange name for a man of God. Stranger
this clipped, glazed landscape
which emerged from his modest
retreat: a man
who wished only to be
left alone—and was made
a saint for it, and brought back
into the fold. He kept vigil
here. Strange yet woefully apt then
this falling dream of water,
silver plunge and misted bursts,
swoon over swoon
ecstatic, endless …
as slippery as
the apparition of multiplying selves
caught in the mirror-lined rooms where
I obliged the King’s morning toilette:
Clementi and Bach spilling
like perfume over the tossed silks,
valets tugging, murmuring over
his grunts as I kept fiddling,
if a saint couldn’t do it,
how could I?
Strangest of all, to imagine
the tattoo of boots crossing the parquet,
bayonet-flash clattering in the constant gleam
of the gilt tabouret, the stands of agate and polished marquetry.
That among these glittering bijoux
Republics were proclaimed,
and emperors …
where now a park lies,
open to the ordinary citizen:
for the parched wayfarer.
Air, breathe me in. Take this thick
heartache, this wily, gelatinous yearning
and make me everywhere
I will be
without boundaries, then;
an infestation of humours, invisible companion:
ageless, like a child.
No one will be able to avoid me.
I don’t know the name of the tree
which dandles here, nor of these blossoms’
impossible exuberance, how delicate how bold.
I should know these things.
I should walk more, sit in the sun.
Everyone here seems drunk from kissing.
Noon’s high light.
What’s left for this palm to cradle,
these fingers to promenade?
My chin, what’s there for it to nudge into song;
and my chest—what about its shadow?
Same drizzling encrustations of stone, same watery light
until darkness rolls in from the East like an army.
Sausages dangling from carts, nested in fists;
pale, stout faces fortified by the pledge to melt
once the lamps ignite in the beer halls …
Come to think of it, not a bad way
to dissolve the day.
Back, back. But not
the beginning, not where
I started. That died with
Johann setting out
on the road. That died
when the only language I trusted
began to grow under my fingers
from the humming wood.
What am I looking for?
Why? I look and look, at people,
horses, even plants in the royal gardens at Kew—
I am tired of my eyes, I am tired of my ears,
my fingers itch for music but I am tired of
hearing it. Why not taste
then, or touch—that’s a good sense,
the Lilliputian topography of a lace handkerchief,
the cool slide of a marble hip …
There I go, buzzing around the edges of things,
never a person, never a heart I can feel
swelling in this lover’s chest, never skin… .
Once I felt I could walk on a straight line
out of this city into the next
free world. But smell attacks
like a phalanx of grenadiers, so swiftly
from there to here to inside
and before you know it,
the citadel is lost.
Real World, the one where everyone
exclaims how fortunate I am to have lived
amid such benign, beautiful people—weren’t they
wise and generous and kind, aren’t I grateful?
They were, they were, they were
and I am.
Along the Serpentine, Hyde Park
a made-up word,
unlike its glib English cousin
or the easy solace of refining
odeur to parfum;
yet none of these
—flippant, vulgar, smooth—
equal to the terror
a clutch of violets engenders
stumbled upon at dusk,
that panics the senses: so
sweet, so cold.