Issue 191, Winter 2009
“Dedicated to G. Verdi. Because It’s His Birthday.”
Good afternoon, John in Paris. Can you hear
your city station by transatlantic phone?
“This one or that.” Of course I don’t know who the tenor is.
Since I forgot your birthday
this July this seemed an apt excuse
to phone. Or haven’t you a phone at 14, Rue Alfred Durand-Claye
O sage of the Rue Alfred Durand-Claye?
All that’s different since you left
is the widening crack above your bed.
They’re not taking this building down a minute too soon.
And a beige monster with an air-conditioner duct
under each aluminum casement blocks what was a view.
Sometimes I feel like I just dropped in here
to say good-bye. It takes a heap of leaving
to get a house condemned, I reflected
reading Van Vechten’s Parties (again, for heaven’s sake)
how Hal broke his arm on the steep stairs.
You typing at your desk, a letter for a map-lined
envelope, or reading La Modification
explicating Pixérécourt. Jane’s portrait still is fresh
though dusty. I just unearthed Frank’s
copy of F. T. Prince’s Poems. Dated Ann Arbor.
I wish you were here. I’m feeling rather like Leopardi said,
Don’t wish your Saturdays to haste away.
They will anyway,
is about to sing “Caro nome.” It’s enough to break your heart
“Daddy! why are you upset?”
“It’s that vile damned race of courtiers.
Don’t talk to men in church.”
Without the phonograph and the radio,
what has the twentieth century to offer?
The National Geographic. Remember to send
the article I clipped for you on glider flying
in ’31 in Germany. Or maybe ’30. This phone call
into the fond void of international airmail
(the flautist is fluting on a pre-Columbian
ocarina I think)—Acquapendente—
aren’t you tickled by place names
that only rustle up a stop for dinner in the rain?
Like a Spirit of ’76 spot
that means a leak and coffee in a Greyhound post house.
The hero sandwiches north of Boston,
a liberal helping of
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company
mixed salad on salami. . . . “Cara nome”
lacks a bit of the old Red Seal magic
of Galli-Curci. It livens up when the hunchback
cusses out the gang. I wish it were raining
on the Boulevard de Sébastopol and I, squelching
along, mildly certain to encounter you—
for an instructive stroll. I wonder what became
of Mealy Potatoes? Write