Monday, March 11, 2013

Boissevain - A Poem

This is a poem I presented last night at the Iota Club and Cafe in Arlington, Virginia.

           (You Probably Thought This Poem Was About You)

        Vermont is where philosophy professors go to summer,
        where poets and novelists hide in secluded cabins,
        cottages, trailers, sequestered in rooms with wood stoves,
        scribbling with pencils, tapping typewriters, staring
        at the ghosts on their computer screens.

        A philosopher poet sneaks into Vermont
        from the north, no flatlander seeking respite
        from Boston, Hartford, New York. He wanders
        down from Montréal, the mean streets of Maisonneuve,
        seeking solace in a Church Street bar
        far from any other philosophers and poets.

        Burlington’s businessmen drinks their beers,
        nurse a scotch and water, a dry martini.
        Some eye the pretty girl as she tends bar.
        The philosophical poet is happy to be here.
        “Mademoiselle, un autre biere si vous plait.”   
        He forgets he can order his beers in English,
        flirt with the barmaid who smiles, not telling
        him to fuck off in the language of love.

        At a corner table a young woman sits alone,
        sipping a glass of white wine and reading
        a dog-eared volume of Vincent Millay’s poetry.
        The poet cleverly inquires why she reads Millay.
        She smiles at him; does not tell him to fuck off.
        He sits, they eat, drink, and laugh through
        the evening, leaving the Church Street bar
        in the wee hours, footsteps hushed by the
        the wind-driven onslaught of snowflakes hexagonal.
        Strange how poetry seems to unlock all doors.

        Later the poet stares beyond her darkened window;
        the snow a hushed veil of urgent whiteness obscuring
        the lake and the vestiges of the Adirondacks beyond.
        Farther south the Taconic ridge where Vincent lived
        at Steepletop, where she died alone and where
        she now lies buried.  She did not hide away in Vermont,
        choosing Berkshire foothills over Green Mountains.
        All the poet sees from this window is the snow ticking
        in night shades, no three long mountains and a wood,
        no three islands in a bay.  There is only darkness.

        In the morning the poet heads north and homeward,
        along Lake Champlain and beside the Rivière Richelieu,
        homeward to the eastern precincts of Montréal.
        Who said it is Vermont where professors summer,
        where poets and novelists go to find a reasons to write?
        The poet can think only of a fleeting winter’s night of passion;
        of poor Vincent, her bones in death’s cruel embrace.
        In Maisonneuve he sits alone and tries to write a poem about it.
        “Mademoiselle, un autre biere si vous plait.”

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