Soup in Lyon
A carrot, an onion, two eggs,
a baguette with a pat of butter,
maybe coffee or tea, maybe milk:
for one season these carried the day
in a city where silk had been golden,
where a tooth-puller’s puppet, Guignol,
beat policemen and scoffed at the landlord;
where the chef was philosopher-priest.
A small bicycle folded, unfolded,
bore me up and around on the ancient
Croix-Rousse hill that I see some nights
in dreams of a city whose haute
cuisine I had missed but did not miss
as I learned to be pleased by basics:
morning market, a pot on the stove
with two eggs, a large carrot, an onion,
half for now and the rest for later;
a baguette with a half-pat of butter,
maybe coffee or tea, maybe milk,
and maybe an apple with cheese.
Any more? Any more would be excess
for I fed my eyes and ears
on the shapes of streets and rivers,
and my mouth on the shapes of words.
Oh, here you are again, pressing my buttons
and breathing close to me as you recite
the same greetings and questions as before.
You never even notice that I’m here–
just talk right through me. Then the answers come
from elsewhere: other answers, always elsewhere.
And yet I light up as you touch my face
with eager fingers, hold me to your cheek
below your warming ear. Now something’s changing:
that other voice–his voice–sounds far away,
more so than last time. Have his buttons dimmed,
his signals become garbled, ring tones lowered?
Put him in silent mode! Take a text message
from me: you don’t need Elsewhere to keep busy.
I can take care of that. I’ll beep and flash,
I’ll vibrate in your pocket. You will always
know how important you are. Did you say
that’s not the point? Oh, here you are again.
So now you think you’d like to stick with logic
rather than be dislodged
from senses and obliged
to make some sense of magic:
unink the spaces we had penciled in,
uncolor shapes we’d edged,
leave letters disengaged
still flowing from the pen.
You scrutinize the time you have invested,
prepare to reinvest
in solitude at best
and hope you’ll wake up rested
to tie up loose ends with a fishing line,
equip your boat with books,
love letters, lures, and hooks,
in order of decline—
but above all, in order and complete,
the way you’d pictured life
without a messy wife
to sink the whole damned fleet.
And so you think this leads to peace of mind:
To avoid another mess
just thwart the loving kiss
that leads you to unwind.
© Claudia Gary
Claudia Gary writes, edits, sings, and composes (tonally) near Washington, D.C. A 2013 semifinalist for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, she is author of Humor Me (David Robert Books, 2006) and several chapbooks. Her poems appear in anthologies such as Forgetting Home (Barefoot Muse Press, 2013) and Villanelles (Everyman Press, 2012), as well as numerous journals. She also writes articles on health for The VVA Veteran, VFW, and other magazines. In 2014, she will offer poetry workshops through The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland (http://www.writer.org/).