|Oct/Nov 2003 • Poetry|
Two Towns in Provence
(after M.F.K. Fisher)
You love certain villages, the cold ones,
boxes of shadow and yellow dust; you admire
their uselessness, their silence, one greasy door
open to the deserted shop-towns not asleep
but so unconscious you can walk like a citizen
through the square, like a thief in the damp
alleys, and never speak. This is the fantasy
of the tranquil man, the man who never talks
for pleasure, every word a coin. Like your father
he sits at table and lets the woman fill
the quiet she cannot bear, even a moment's
carved breathing between them. He loves her
as he loves a canopy of plane trees
when he walks; he moves in and out of her
constant language, but he loves the solitary
village of his own mind better.
It is his only secret.
Pont St. Esprit
I do not admire them so much; your villages
are like my mother, who sits in a well
of silence at the center of us, as at the center
of a square. Our words are stones falling
down her. Her own words rise up from the black
bottom, pitched like pebbles over the wall,
sometimes hitting us, and sometimes hitting
the ground around us. I heal myself in the chaos
of a market town, jostled, accosted, chicken heads
dropping at our feet-help, here, hold this,
take this for me, please. This is the fantasy
of the anxious woman. She never tires of voices;
her mother's voice, the one not vanished
is saying something like this, something stray
and necessary. It does not consider itself.
It will never say anything she truly believes.
Hold this for her.