Sunday, January 13, 2013

Poem: "Concierge"

My first 7/7 effort for the new year: write a poem a day for one week, starting on the 7th day of the month. Not sure if the draft is any good, but I wrote about people about whom I don't usually write: politicians, scientists and actors. The first part, with its matter-of-fact tone, is at odds with the rest of the poem. The Millay section (Vincent) is factually inaccurate since she did not die in Paris, but I don't know if that fudge really matters. I could change her to someone else. The poem is a gallery of characters and may be added to.


Guardian of the gate, a doorman, I greet
your visitors and keep out the street.

On rainy days I whistle for your cab
and stow your bags carefully at the back.

I salt the sidewalk so you won’t slip,
after the snowfall has been cleared in heaps.

When power goes down, as in the earthquake,
I provide candles, like my medieval namesake.

And when you are gone,
I hold the parcels for your return.


Welcome back, Mr. Ceaușescu!
I almost did not recognize you.

The ears are dead giveaways,
even when they stick out from a Chinese face.

I hear the revolution is over.
We can all come out of our covers.

Message for you, sir, I think,
a prank:

Ceaușescu, go to Hell!
You are looking remarkably well.


Vincent, how was Paree?
Did you bring back a sonnet for me

from a dirty café in Montmartre,
burnished in your lovely meter?

You broke a heart? And found
it was your own?

O, matter for the muses!
O, martyrdom, the best of ruses!

Here, I’ll bring up your steam trunk.
You’re a man now but I’m a lover of the franc.


What took you away, Madame Skłodowska-Curie, so long?
Work or play? What a beautiful sarong!

I have held your blue lab coat for your return.
Many asked to touch its radiation,

half-lives mostly, some split
personalities, and just last week, a double date.

I suppose they hope,
in some measure, to be your isotope.

Good one, that, eh?
Madame Curie-Skłodowska, you have been too long away.


Is it you, Mr. Mishima, behind that mask?
I’m sorry that I have to ask.

Don’t be angry, sir. You won’t believe
the cranks that I had to get rid of.

No, no, I don’t mean to imply that you are a crank
any more than I am Anne Frank.

‘Tis the season, sir, Halloween.
And your mask is rather African.

Like it? Why, sir, I lose my head over it.
And here is your knife to make your costume complete.


Your pigeon, Professor Skinner,
set off the security scanner.

No animals in the building.
Not for Science or Superstition or fill in

the blank. Rules are rules.
I didn’t set the reinforcement schedules.

There’s the flashing light for my coffee.
Now, if you will excuse me,

I must see to my refreshment,
before it goes again to the Bangladeshi gent.


Only right that you return as Thai,
what you pretend to be in The King and I.

Yes, you also return naked and dirt poor
but all of us have to start from somewhere,

Vladivostok or Sakhalin,
a home we left or an imaginary inn.

Taidje, Julius, Jule, Youl, Yul, Yuliy,
singing the songs of the Romani,

collect your hair as down-
payment for a crown.

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