26 April 2011

two poems. a doorway in Paris. the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Boulevard du Montparnasse

by Mary Jo Salter

Once, in a doorway in Paris, I saw
the most beautiful couple in the world.
They were each the single most beautiful thing in the world.
She could have been sixteen, perhaps; he twenty.
Their skin was the same shade of black: like a shiny Steinway.
And they stood there like a four-legged instrument
of a passion so grand one could barely imagine them
ever working, or eating, or reading magazine.
Even they could hardly believe it.
Her hands gripped his belt loops, as they found each other's eyes,
because beauty like this must be held onto,
could easily run away on the power
of his long, lean thighs; or the tiny feet of her laughter.
I thought: now I will write a poem,
set in a doorway on the Boulevard du Mont Parnasse,
in which the brutishness of time
rates only a mention; I will say simply —
that if either one should ever love another,
a greater beauty shall not be the cause.

"Boulevard du Mont Parnasse" by Mary Jo Salter, from Sunday Skaters. © Knopf, 1996.

Piazza di Spagna, Early Morning

I can't forget
How she stood at the top of that long marble stair
Amazed, and then with a sleepy pirouette
Went dancing slowly down to the fountain-quieted square;

Nothing upon her face
But some impersonal loneliness,- not then a girl
But as it were a reverie of the place,
A called-for falling glide and whirl;

As when a leaf, petal, or thin chip
Is drawn to the falls of a pool and, circling a moment above it,
Rides on over the lip-
Perfectly beautiful, perfectly ignorant of it.

Richard Wilbur

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