August 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
This weekend: a walk in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, an Eric Rohmer film at Lincoln Center (Le Beau Mariage, with the incomparable Arielle Dombasie) champagne with Lisa. I remembered how brilliant Rohmer is, but not that exquisite pleasure one feels at the end of one of his films, as the whole comes together, not like a short story—which is the most obvious comparison—but like a painting. The cinematography is masterly but that’s not what I mean: all the elements of the film combine in the dance of connections you see in a Vermeer or Brueghel: something so specific and so typical the tension between the two becomes joy. I can’t think of a short story that does this. Finding the universal in the specific is not at all the same thing. Rohmer’s movies, like most French movies, are full of dialogue and it’s realistic dialogue yet it still reminds me more of daubs of color than words.
Mlle Cecile Brunner, 1881, is the unassuming, pink climbing rose you expect to see in the in the front yard of storybook English cottages, although I suppose it was cultivated in France. It’s the kind of rose that makes me think of hot green grass, limpid skies, an afternoon slice of white moon hanging shyly over the shrubbery. It smelled good too, just like a rose. I’ve been thinking a lot about France. My friend Andree, who’s living there now, described it so beautifully: the Seine, the calm, the light, the townspeople coming out to hear her and her husband play music in the local restaurant. And then, of course, Eric Rohmer, who makes me want to move there yesterday. For the first time ( and this is due not only to the charms of France, of course), I thought: I wish I’d been born in Europe, how relaxing not to be an American…
There was another rose in the Botanic Garden whose name I wish I’d noted, the red of the perfect lipstick, the one you only find once or twice in your life, a velvety deep red that loses no color to darkness (and disappears from cosmetic lines swiftly, as if the shade itself is in short supply). That’s the one I keep thinking about, so I guess I’ll have to go back next year. And when I find a lipstick that femme fatale red, I’ll pack up the cats and husband and go to France, where being a writer, a woman in her sixth decade, a rationalist-sensualist non-monogamous devotee of thorns and roses is to fit in quite easily. If only I hadn’t forgotten so much of the language…
Never mind! It’s Sunday night, I have a lot of work next week, the apartment is clean, and the Rohmer festival continues.
Down By the Salley Gardens
Down by the salley gardens
my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
with her would not agree.
In a field by the river
my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder
she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy,
as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish,
and now am full of tears.
August 16, 2010 § 1 Comment
On the way home from the farmer’s market, bags heavy with raspberries, strawberries, haricots verts and heirloom tomatoes, I stopped in at Petco to ogle the shelter cats.
Usually there’s one or two that are appealing. Today there was a cat that looked just like Fitzroy asleep in a bottom cage. He was younger and slimmer, but the line of lip against the feathery white jaw was exactly the same.
And there were two lovely, gangly adolescent males, mostly white with gray and black, scribbled splotches, maybe five months old. They were tabbies but their faces were long and narrow, like greyhounds, and their expressions were tender and sweet.
But the winners—the heartstoppers—were two five-year-old brothers curled up together in a cage. I couldn’t tell where one started and the other stopped. They were both black, though one had white paws. No white anywhere else. Their coats were glossy and they were big, healthy and powerful looking.Their features were clearly delineated and perfect, and their eyes were the sage green of a desert in spooky light. Did I mention how black they were, like night squared? How they lay in their cage like kidnapped princes? Their owner had had to leave the country. Or perhaps merely wanted to. If he/she/they went gaily off to France without finding these royals a home, the loss of a finger from each is warranted.
They looked at me with something between indifference and rage. If only I had any, I would use my demonic strength to rip the front off their cage, let them glide away, and be gone myself before anyone noticed. They’d wait outside to offer a guarded thanks, not certain how much I knew. I’d pledge fealty. If this were a poem, an airplane the size of a pony would land nearby and my young parents would be making love nearby in the snow. There’s no reason for this to be a poem; I’m just saying.
I tried to rhapsodize to the teenage boy next to me, but he mumbled and turned away. So I went home—opened the door into my too small, too warm, too cluttered apartment—and Fitzroy greeted me with his anxious affection from his perch on the back of the couch, torso humping up like a corduroy accordion, and Mouchette walked back and forth (and back and forth) across the keyboard as I checked my email, shedding black hairs between the letters. They were so deeply familiar, so known to me and knowing of me, my all day, every day companions, that the stunning green-eyed brothers were revealed as merely cats.
The Cat in the Kitchen
(For Donald Hall)
Have you heard about the boy who walked by
The black water? I won’t say much more.
Let’s wait a few years. It wanted to be entered.
Sometimes a man walks by a pond, and a hand
Reaches out and pulls him in.
There was no
Intention, exactly. The pond was lonely, or needed
Calcium, bones would do. What happened then?
It was a little like the night wind, which is soft,
And moves slowly, sighing like an old woman
In her kitchen late at night, moving pans
About, lighting a fire, making some food for the cat.