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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dimensions of Talk (In Three Acts)

Act I: Talk of Coffee

You were reluctant
to get out of the wet day,
but I was hungry -- how could
you not eat, when Paris
was at your feet?

So you took me to Le Procope,
the oldest café in Paris,
and as we sipped our coffee
I told you how a Turkish ambassador
had introduced it
to Paris society
in the seventeenth century.

You nodded, and told me how King Louis
did not care for the coffee,
but the Turkish emissary
had served the delicacy
at exotic parties he would host
at Le Procope,
and Parisians were hooked,
especially Voltaire.

The café's air was buzzing with sound,
and I wondered how many
works he had created there,
filled on the coffee Arabica
the Turks had brought to Paris,
and you did nothing
but stare at me, still
not wishing to share me, yet smiling,

as though you were catching
my thoughts in mid-air,
as if they could grow
out of the very air
breathed by Voltaire
and that Turkish delegate,

we sipped our coffee,
looked at the weather,
looked at each other,
and just ate and ate.

Act II: Talk of Poetry

the short shower was done,
though the rain drops still clung
to me and you, Paris shone
under an undecided sun,
the grey old arch of the Champs
stood warming itself
in a sort of hazy sheen,
while you and I stood
in between so many things:

you will write about this
won't you
? you had asked,
with a defiant turn of your head,
how do you know?
I had said, and you had smiled:
it's in your eyes,
you are not here
I can see you are already
writing elsewhere

and I had tried to cloak
the machinery that so turns
me without any mercy,
but I could not lie,
I remembered instead
a line by Auden
which I repeated:
all I have is a voice
to undo the folded lie;

and you had looked disappointed
as though I should have
quoted something from
Verlain instead: you replied,
can you not make sense
of me without
re-making me in poetry

and I stroked your hair,
flecked with sunlight, before
the sun would go in again,
and the sparkle would die
in another splash of rain,

I am a slave to it,
as I am to you
I said,
and you had looked at me
defiantly again:
I don't want to
share you with your poetry
you said, and I had shaken
my head: but you are
my poetry, too

I write not to give you meaning,
but to give meaning to myself,
you give me meaning

and you had looked at me
again as though the point
had already been made;
I don't want to be too,
I want to be
the only one
and your voice was tinged
with red, like the colours
of a dying sun.

Act III: Talk of 3D

As we walked back to the Apollo Hotel,
I was silent, and Paris seemed to follow
my lead as we entered the old building;
once in --

the surface of the city seemed stilled,
and the sounds of the day
winding down to give way
to the night seemed a distant play;

you realised that you had cut a cord
within me, our connection a little less
than before, and you clasped my hand
as we walked to our hotel room door,

is it wrong to want you
just for me
? you asked me,
and I replied, it's wrong
to make my poetry a luxury
when it's like breathing to me

it's wrong to ask me
to give you all, and then
keep nothing for me

the sounds of your words
from before echoed in
the sounds now coming from me,
and you undressed silently,
looking at yourself in the mirror
hanging behind the hotel room door;

you had sensed you had wrongly
made me feel guilty for being me:
for seeing too much
of everything with a mind
that translates sounds
and colours into writing,
as though it were breathing --

you made a funny grimace, then,
trying to make me laugh,
would you have loved me if
I looked like Quasimodo
? you asked,

and I said yes, but you
didn't believe me again;
so I said: being ugly
only in appearance,
but beautiful in mind and spirit
is a one-dimensional ugliness
that can be overcome

but being ugly in all three
is worse than a Quasimodo
that made you grimace like a little kid --
and I added: if only we
could all love
as faithfully as he did

and you looked hurt at how
I had turned the subject around
to what you had changed instead;
so I'm ugly in 3D you said,
pointing at the mirror or me;

and I replied, I cherish
what's mine, even if to the world
it looks ugly, and nothing I cherish
can be ugly in 3D

and you had turned to me then,
took me into your warm sanctuary
from our differences,
but not from my poetry --
although you wouldn't admit it --
and began to recite
all the senses necessary
to keep me.

From the collection: "From Paris, In Love" (Turkish Vistas) >>

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