DECOUPAGE

Midges drifting in the park

Are like children’s boats,

Swimming in the amber dark

The way the world here floats,

 

Midges settling in the foam

Of the evening’s humid beer,

Set against the liquid dome

Of the sunset’s chandelier,

 

Crudely pasted on the bronze

In which our day is frozen

Against the purple pond’s

Velvet kind of lederhosen,

 

As if some inspired amateur

Had made a quick collage,

And dropped into that ragged blur

The park’s pastel barrage,

 

Where his razor’s careless blade

Sets tables cropped by sun,

Weaving out of scraps a braid

As the French have always done

 

In the beach tree Tuileries,

The local version of the spring,

A soft edition of the breeze

That our rougher flashbacks bring,

 

A foreign version of the youth

Lived on an eternal beach,

The shadow adolescent truth

For which old masters slowly reach,

 

The lavish glare of headlit sands

Perfected by our distant past,

A history made of crops and scans

That turn out always colorfast,

 

Unlike these fly-lit forgeries,

Where nothing seems quite real,

Overlaying with a cut-out breeze

The memory’s more substantial feel,

 

And yet certain people summer too

In the beech-lined Tuileries,

And their childhoods are as true

As the years beneath our favorite trees

 

Which in any case are long since gone

From the axe or from disease,

And even our nostalgic lawn

No longer hums with bees,

 

Although the 1950s bees are here,

Cruising in nostalgic flocks,

They way they did each buzzing year,

The phone on fire in its British box,

 

But even so the balconies

Are touched by summer nonetheless,

Awnings in the evening breeze

Free of city’s rigid stress

 

Like the flying flags in a Dufy,

Acceptable to foreigners

As a sign of continuity,

Of ocean, sin, and sunners,

 

So why is summer still so strange,

Like a cut-out on a page,

A wrenching barometric change

From the palm tree’s swaying gauge?

 

It’s just that beaches here are hedges,

Where children scuff their shoes

Chasing after just the edges

Of their running shadow’s hues,

 

The shady lanes that city trees

Manufacture when they set,

Imaginary arteries

We’d make up stories to abet,

 

Wanting badly to believe

In the lingering of the day,

So no one in the park will leave,

So sounds will keep the void away.

 

Back then I was so fond

Of planes which flew by rubber band,

Which always jumped up just beyond

My all-too-steady hand,

 

And the dimming lawns of sprinkler mist

Which no street scene will erase,

The boat rides which in fact I missed

And which now nothing can replace,

 

As I chase my future in the sand,

And watch it creep like sun ahead

Of my desperate clenching hand,

Which holds on the dark instead,

 

So that on days like this,

The past and future have to meet

In the shadow of some summer kiss

Which all of Paris has to beat

 

To break the back of memory

And fake a new life just as real

As those sandy days were summery -

Assuming that we really feel

 

Anything as vital as a look,

If life can write its searing grace

As easily as it later took

Away our perfect adolescent face -

 

But still the slanted sunset cramps

Its drifting liquid light

Around the dimly rhyming lamps

Smudged by evenings’ fading sight,

 

The way that films of sunspot teem

When we close our eyes and stare

Closely at the sudden dream

Of richness in the air,

 

Where the frenzied strobes of neurons pose

The eyes’ remembered scene

In wild distorted throbbing rows

With lightning in between,

 

The world transfigured with a wink,

The way that artists cut and glue

Scraps into a missing link

So the human race feels true,

 

As paper layers juxtapose

These figures in the dancing heat,

In the distance nose to nose

Although up close they never meet -

 

And yet, like photos overlapped,

Their borders are too rough;

The edges aren’t exactly apt

They’re close, but never close enough,

 

The way that shadows run from feet

Born from shoes now far away,

Like certain things you can’t repeat -

First love, a look, a summer day -

 

But like an object and its shade,

So our summers likewise need

To copy those already made;

To Xerox that initial seed

 

Which initial lovers sow

Every time they brush and touch,

Perfect in our minds although

What follows matters just as much,

 

So love’s reduced to just one name

Where all the acts are hard to follow,

All statistics are the same,

And middle age is drunk and hollow.

 

But sitting in a Paris park,

We start again from scratch,

Like schoolboys in the glowing dark,

Looking for a perfect match

 

Between our past and present loves,

Between our paste-up childhood land

And these indifferent cooing doves;

Between the raucous glaring sand

 

And these geometric walks

Of endless phosphorescent white,

Where empty foreign summer stalks

The powdered lamplit streets of night,

 

And eliminate all hope of trying

To remake the history of sun,

Sinking in eddies and dying

In a night that’s just barely begun.

 

Draft 7: 5-6:00

finished June 20th, 2000, 11:24 PM

Rue de Varenne