Somewhere in the Louvre the marriage died.
Her husband scoffed at how she stared at pictures
too blurry to make out, the paint slapped on
and crusty like a truck tire caked with mud.
Who were these folks you’d never meet in town?
Plump, naked women (none with a decent tan),
all that pale fat flesh of boring gals
he’d never ask to dance.
She tried her best to educate the ass.
What do you think, she said, about the skill,
years of determined effort just to learn
the right amount of pigment crushed in oil,
the minute motions of the wrist that made
a brush of camel hair an instrument
of intellect and soul, the fine hair pregnant
with a tear of aquamarine and held aloft
until the eye was sure: just so, right here;
what of the dedication to the art
that often meant a nasty, brutish, short
existence for the artist, dying penniless;
what do you say for those who gave their lives
to the creation of these monuments to beauty,
preserving beauty from the ugliness
that martyrs even flowers…
what do you say?
He coughed. Well, when you put it that way, Dear,
I’d say that any one of these canvases,
at auction, could clear a couple million easy.
They later stopped on a footbridge over the Seine.
Just like the movies, he said, moving in
for a kiss. She acquiesced, then pulled away
to face the river she’d known only in books.
Myriad bateaux waking the water—
myriad? maybe not so many as that,
but didn’t she feel something close to grief,
and isn’t grief the cruelest multiplier?
Yes, all the world grows multitudinous
while you remain a tiny, unaccounted for,
The hammered surface showed her countenance
in a myopic blur of colored glints
and flashes making her face a masterpiece
of Impressionism. That’s the look, she thought,
of one who guessed that she could just make do
with any man, to shut her mother up.
Alright, she liked him. What oaf’s not loveable
in some way? But marry him—wed anyone?
The bended knee, the ring, the dress, the cake:
nothing but fairytale grotesqueries.
What else, in her town, was a girl to do?
She felt entitled to a certain state
of satisfaction. He was handsome, rich…
Say, you’re not sore, now are you? You can tell me,
I won’t get mad, I promise. So he said.
She touched his arm, managing a smile,
and moved her head in a reassuring no.
He’d brought her here. To Paris. Her wish, not his.
Maybe she was being…what was she being?
Unfair? Ungrateful? She looked back on the water,
estimating depth—well, did she have
the nerve to take a deep breath once she sank?
Surely it’s not that bad, to end it all
before it all began? What could she see
ahead but day and night and day again
sharing the house she cleaned, the meals she made,
with a troglodyte whose world was beer and Elvis?
Peering beyond her image, imagining
below lay bones, rings, coins, the dreams of fish,
detritus of the city’s untold past,
she watched the wake diminish, watched the flow
of the famous river where she wavered sadly,
sensing that no one had seen precisely that water,
the river hers alone, and already gone.