EMILE ZOLA IN A PHOTOGRAPH WITH
HIS MISTRESS, JEANNE CIRCA 1900
Who knows better than I? Justice
does not rule our lives or the tender
weight of any dream.
At the theatre the zinc candelabrum
imitate the Florentine bronze —
a green deceit.
Act III: The murderer goes free to kill
again and again. The sweetness
on the old prostitute’s lips
is not love but hunger’s unforgiving
touch, a sugary paste she steals
off the café’s plates
as the Fat Man carries her away
into the boulevard’s shadow.
feeds on itself. The serpent is wise
devouring the head first — a bright
Or does the soul dream? White fragments
of the whole being reefed
distrustful of strangers. But do not tell me
the moon’s pale fire
through the curtains
is any less than the white
hats of the bourgeoisie bobbing
like sun-bleached flowers
along the Rue de Clichy. Precise
measurements make a still
life. A pose. A boat.
A mere reflection in the current
watching our children
feed the swans
on the lower lake. Maybe this world
is more than light, than you
unbraiding the long silken breaths
of your hair, than a beggar
into the cold nest of his hands.
Nothing is as ordinary
as it seems.
In the still lens
of an imperfect world
joy flows, sorrow
is motionless, and there are never
any secrets from the maid.