Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Books written in their language

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Fast Picasso

I remember the shop in the dream being in a neigh-
borhood around the corner from an exact replica of
Gleidden, Switzerland, if there is such a place. The
shop had been changed into a gay bookstore and I
found myself lost, looking for the used bookstand
that was always near the counter, but was no longer
in its usual place. I walked about with too much lilt
and gravity seemed to push my elbows out wider
than I wanted. I was barefoot and the tiles were cool.

There was a sextet of painted etchings on black rect-
angular plates hung from the back of a bookshelf.
The first two had words and figures, the other four
were figures only. The first was of a figure entering
from the left and a place that could have been Cuba
or Manila. I don’t recall the writing. It had the feel
of a fast Picasso. The same figure in the second was
wavy, but perfectly articulated. The words read:
I remember walking in seeing them all and thinking . . .
followed by depictions of what it was he thought
in the remaining quartet. There were three women
on a floor, two of them nude, and a round man on
his stomach writing in a small book. Their hair was
shaded in random solid pools of shadow while the
rest of it was simply outlined. They were supposed
to be images of his thought impressions as he entered
this place teeming with a danger of implied hedonism.

They were compelling for their lines, the waviness
suggesting the liquous fluid recollection of thought.
Some of the plates had Klimtish areas filled in with
overlaid gold. The signature on the final plate read:
Leonard Cohen. I turned to see him walk into the
shop. He looked like Anne Sexton when she was
in her twenties and sported her hairdo. He wore a
long housecoat worn by autumn ladies in New York.
He smoked. We began talking while I began building
my own sextet of thought plates in the bookshelf of my
head as to why he was here, why I was here barefoot
and looking for books that must have been moved when
the changeover took place. He was genial and after some
brief words said: We’ve never been formally introduced,
I’m Leonard
. I said: I know, failing to remember any
other occasion wherein we might have met informally.

I told him that I’d been keenly studying the black sextet
of his encounter. He asked me what I thought of them.
I began to reply but the emotion of their impact visited
me like bad news at night and I found myself at the wide
hem of tears unable to say that their execution was superb,
that they held a delicately balanced and persuasive story,
that the story was given to change depending on one’s
mood, and that the consequences of his entering among
these reposed strangers retold itself with every looking.

I never got that far. Before waking from the dream,
the last image I have of Mr. Cohen is Ms. Sexton
holding her cigarette and a wry smile, her eyes
filled with such a knowledge of a world that could
not be guessed at but through her sharing of marks
on paper, her black marks on black plates, her house-
coated emissaries in Leonard and now me, standing
barefoot in a gay bookstore where lesbian women sat
quietly reading books written in their language, where
amorous light passed morning through willing windows,
where lustrous Switzerland lay just around the corner.

Joseph Gallo
August 22, 2006

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Blogger joseph parried...

This poem is based on a dream I had the night before I wrote it. Everything happened--names, places, circumstances--exactly has recounted in the piece.

August 30, 2006 4:43 PM  

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