I have a sense of place
in this room enriched by scarcity:
unadorned walls, cold-water sink,
my cracked casement window
where I hear the bells that ring
—the sound of things required
among the domes of Sacré-Coeur,
unconditional domes, in mist, rising
like something hardly real,
a vision that may or may not exist,
though that distinction is ineligible
up here among hoodlum pigeons
at the quiet drifting edge,
where I’ve come to find a place of sense.
Did you hear something in the corridor,
a complaint on the landing,
the rattle of a long-neglected door
touched by night drafts in the building?
Did Madame Antonini climb the stairs?
Would she be in the storage room
at 3:00 A.M., bedeviled and sere,
looking for spiders to kill with a spoon?
Didn’t you hear it? I heard something
like wind in the wires, a knock,
someone somewhere crying
more softly than my bitter clock,
something barely audible
transpiring at the bottom of the hall.
I look out from my weather-cracked window
at lights on the horizon at night
—a thousand propositions. Three compel the eye:
a red, blue, and green all in a line
between the Panthéon and St. Sulpice.
Luminaries keeping their distance,
three weird lithium girls
beyond time’s power to dispel,
their desire safely disembodied
which otherwise could move the world.
Each night they come back glimmering
with Aristotelian clarity
—no question yet, no overture,
but already they know my name.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 15 Number 6, on page 33
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