Between Heaven and Hell
Granted, jet lag and three glasses of Sancerre
for breakfast, but still.
Between Heaven and Hell lies Paris? And that tone—
Auchincloss-ian, or de Beauvoir channeling Thurston Howell III.
Though something about the Limoges gravy boats
Scuttled in an armoire in ratty little Le Jemmapes
Seemed to agree to it, and it stuck with me as we wobbled our way
Past bad rappers and Roma beggars on the sidewalk
With one leg tied back under their filthy skirts outside Chanel
To the Louvre, where un vioc with the faint lisp of the Languedoc
Roared Terrorriste! at a woman in hajib
Staring in wonder at David’s The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons.
Even the sky was yellow-gray in a windy downpour
Before it turned sunny in the Luxemburg Gardens
And kids’ upturned smiling faces appeared like cancelled stamps
In the shadows of twigs along the path.
Not to mention the cemeteries you insisted on spendy-taxiing to
Because each was “uniquely beautiful and monstrous”
(Which you also said of the cottages in Newport, by the way).
Monmartre, Montparanesse, Pere Lachaise
An hour before closing empty and about as inspiring as an Anglican church
On Tuesday. A slow march up one sodden allée and down the next
Until we found ourselves first like old giants – two fat gray-bearded Americans –
Lamenting the slim thighs of that bastard Géricault,
Then miniaturized, rolling rave-kids reflected fluorescent
As glow sticks in the algaed water collected in the serifs of pocked letters on the plinth.
Petrichor, but beneath it something acrid caught in the backs of our throats.
Needles, kind tins of cat food, an empty wallet emblazoned
With pierced hearts. Until by God even the Devil himself -- a Sonderkommando
In his black boots and striped jacket, humming “Notre Espoir” a la Chevalier.
Heaps of the day’s daffodils passing us on his grounds man’s cart,
Whispering on the way to the fire.
—Koh Pu, Thailand, 53 Kilometers from Phuket, 2015
At the end of this sentence I will remember you,
But after eleven long years let me linger here on the terrace for a few moments longer
Digesting Poom’s mind-blowing Khao khluk kapi
With three fingers of good bourbon as Camille the hotel cat sways beside me
In the hammock to the last ‘surr-ay’s ‘ of “Stone Soul Picnic” floating up
Like the aroma of lemon lip gloss from the poured plastic rock speakers,
While above my chest one by one StarChart summons spectral bears and shepherds
From the night sky with a slow sweep of my iPhone;
Let the breeze that ruffles my shirt and trousers
When I remove them to swim sail my skin
Softly as the shadows of lace curtains,
Or when I decide against it and lie back down, as recompense for growing old and fat
Permit me instead to indulge in the brief delight of shivering not from cold but from conjuring
From the restless clatter of palm fronds up the beach a strange city
Out of Calvino where “constant duels” are fought by ghosts with rusty swords on nameless squares;
Then when my memories come, as they must, let them be faded, and bowdlerized,
Or redacted as
in some ancient CIA document,
Resembling nothing more sinister than the slow passage of exotic stamps from countries long passed
Into oblivion beneath a bronze lamp in an old moldy study;
And when the liquor kicks in let my dreams be of soft caresses and paternal kisses
That flare up and flower behind my eyes like phosphorescent
Before I wake pleasantly dazed like a kid before The Great Cosmo’s magic wand,
Unsure if he has suddenly appeared, or disappeared; in other words
Let me not be the kind of man who drifts from room to room
Like a fine localized drizzle, as I often do now, or wears time like a dark suit
Inside his body, but rather, as what? trade in kind for these ten years plus one I’ve survived
On this god-damned planet, perhaps a freshly minted superhero
Or the astonished inherent of ten thousand billion dollars, whatever
Would be enough to let me fly backwards in time and protect those I loved from everything
I couldn’t protect them from then— the crystalline allure
Of suddenly exposed seafloor, mute klaxons and absent seismometers,
Liars in shirt-jacks dining on foie gras heaped on toast points behind iron
Fences strung with barbed wire; the godless wind, the wave
Dear Dewi, that staggered up the dock, the flimsy shanty’s steps,
A drunk to knock his wife around, a turquoise bear
Your new son had never seen,
That licked his honeyed smile and ate him.
DANIEL LAWLESS has published or has poems forthcoming in Cortland Review, Louisville Review, Ploughshares, FIELD, Prairie Schooner, B O D Y, Fulcrum, Asheville Review, Pif, etc. He is the founder and editor of Plume: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry.