Jim Barnes

At the Festival de Poesie

In a dressing room the size of a closet
in Vicki’s theatre, we crowd around
the table to translate what cannot be
done. The poems lie about us, scattered
into our lives like sibylline leaves
the Paris wind has thrown. We speak in tongues
not even we are sure of.

The day lives
elsewhere. A smoky night fogs our vision:
the rain is fierce in the courtyard beyond
our fanning door. Too many words limp past
our chairs and out into the liquid light.
The poems all deal with broken lives we
try to puzzle out the pieces of.

and the chance word we wish for, a mythy
phrase that will hit our heads like sewer steam
in alleys we dread to walk. Too many
hours we almost it: our minds are growing
dark with poetry.

If there was but a way
to level out our tumbling tongues, if there
was but a way to say it forever right,
then we would have out paradise in words
and no business whatever in the world.


Jim Barnes

Meeting Susan S. at Musee de l’Orangerie

The same sad hat, the same white gloves,
she wore those days in Bellagio.
The same sad eyes, disdaining loves
she may have left in Menaggio.
An accident we saw her at all:
she was slow to confirm our call.

Oh, there you are, she said, as if
we hadn’t been. Looking over
our shoulders, to the right and left,
she critiqued Monet’s clover
and trunks of trees whose tops she could
not see. But the light on the lilies was good.

Light was indeed good everywhere,
especially for Monet and now
for us, washing Paris in an air
framed by clouds and endless rainbows.
We had had a premonition
earlier we would see someone.

She paused, her eyes drifting about
the walls as if she expected some
reveling satyr to step out
of the maze of color and claim
her, his prize. We gently eased away.
She floated out into the day.