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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Exit Strategy

rhapsody on a theme of Jean du Chas

Saperlipopette! I trip over
the concierge’s mongrel again.
An imbecile of genius
with a lazy eye, it watches me
come as I go and go as I come.
While the lift remains broken
I will be sadly unbearable.

Consider life a series of
connecting rooms between corridors.
In corridor and on landing
I am a yo-yo dangled
from an upstairs broom cupboard
as the chambermaid rearranges
my dust. Perspectives dizzy
and the banister takes my supporting arm.

Always and everywhere
someone is watching and when
she nods off over a tisane,
le concierge, c’est moi
shooing the street urchins off
in between reading your postcards.

M. Machintruc, half past eight,
don’t like that tie.
Addresses and posts
a croque-monsieur to his mouth
at the café bar on the corner
and scans the paper for news
of the Greenland campaign.
It lies in ruins.
And so to work.

The line of a trilby hat
passes the frosted glass
by my head at eye-level.
My life is a broken-
backed roman policier
on a two-second time-lag
to the past historic tense,
sleazy yet classical:
Maigret and the Concierge or,
The Dead Man Left
No Forwarding Address.

The postman, rodent-faced
brute, in-out, nine ten.
The full stops of dust motes
he trails huddle slowly
into a will-less drift of ellipses.

Madame Balai, tripping over
her broom: ‘God blows
his nose and woe betide us
when the hanky descends.’

M. Putanesco, nine twenty,
the weight of the world’s
street-walkers’ perfume
lagging behind him, loitering
fugitively on the stairs.

Mme Balai, sweeping herself
back onto her feet: ‘I remember
my mother as a young girl,
always scraping her knees.’

M. Ningún, travelling
salesman in nothing,
nine thirty, an empty
bag full of samples.

You exit therefore you are.
When you exit, I see you.
You are no one before that
and no one then too,
but certified so.

As you slink in past the sleeping
lazy-eyed dog in the evening
the very wallpaper knows
where you’ve been.

I who am nothing know all.
Madame le concierge stirs
in her sleep and I make myself
scarce up a drain.

The dead Uruguayan
lay in his room a fortnight.
Page after page his manuscripts
proved themselves more than equal
to the parakeet’s guano.

Skim-reading as I threw them away
I knew myself in the presence of genius.

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