Your Feckless Smile
Your smile detached and flitted off.
We search in the Luxembourg Garden,
the Tuileries, the cafes along
Boulevard Montparnasse. You fear
it has adhered to German tourists
or smeared the eloquent stained glass
of Saint-Chapelle. I worry
that it has disgraced itself drunk
at an embassy party where
the stuffing comes out of shirts.
Why can’t you discipline it?
To avoid frightening the world
I never smile. No one expects
my approval, no one invites me
to galas where the champagne flows,
no one greets me gladly in the street.
My expression avoids extremes
so I never have to explain them.
Isn’t this why we live in Paris
with the Seine in suicidal gloom
the cathedral shelled by fire,
terrorists gunning down their critics?
No sunny Impressionist scenes
for us. If you hadn’t loosed your smile
we would be too anonymous
to suffer existential angst,
our bodies so secret that even
naked we’d be invisible.
The alerted gendarmery searches
alleys, bistros, cafes, parking lots
in the dusty yellow suburbs
where rumors froth with lechery.
Next time refrain from flirting
with the world. It doesn’t flirt back
but takes what it wants with a sneer,
leaving its best friends toothless
and sopping up muck through a straw.
McQuillan’s Last Few Notes
Winter thaw exhorts the river
to rise and claim our whole village.
We and the river got along
for the last hundred years but
political notions have shifted
to the right of that white pine looming
over the house where Bob McQuillan
died while banging his piano.
We still hear his last few notes
tinkling like rats rattling trash
at the landfill. The river sighs,
dreaming of the Mississippi,
the Nile, the Volga, the Amazon
French-kissing the naked sea.
We also have spiked our ambitions,
settling for a pittance while stones
crack open to release the ghosts
fossilized at the planet’s birth.
What happens when the universe
goes blank in a fit of entropy?
A painless erasure, we’re sure--
no more climate to muddle us,
no more spirit to corral.
We share our usual tall cup
of coffee and plan a speechless day
of chores, ending with moonlight
smoothing every frozen surface.
We agree that winter’s easy
if expensive, fuel depletion
and psychic distress managed
the way we manage everything
that ruffles our mossy coifs.
McQuillan left no ghost to play
his folky little compositions,
but his final struck notes linger
to domesticate the river’s flow.