Oyster Boy Review 08  
  January 1998
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» Levee 67


Walking with Jacques

Scott Baker

jacques is sitting in the Tuilleries
he is standing in the sculpture garden
he is writing poems on the tablecloth
of a candlelit bistro
the electricity unpaid

there goes jacques
crying by the Seine at night his shirt torn
his beret floating on sewage
the brightly lit sewage
sewage of lights

jacques is collecting carbuncles
shiny things from souvenir stands
and trash bins
he presses them laughing into the dirty hands
of gypsy children begging for francs centimes
offering romantic tours of the nearest lavatory

why is jacques smiling at the sun
sparkling on the Seine
through the stained glass of Notre Dame
why does he frown at customers in Chez Potin
filling their dainty grotesqueries of paunch
and flatulence with foie gras and imported beer

jacques sits in the cafe
stirring his espresso
the steam smells like tar
sweet sticky tar
black like freedom
black like revolution
black with dark froth
the end of the war

jacques in the workingman's bathhouse
drinking bourbon from a flask under his towel
his gut soughing out gurgles of the fatted calf
where were his rings his gloves his portmanteau
        his portmanteau
        never had one
daydreaming of this perfect suit
tapered waist pointed collars
a plum ascot to offset the verdure of his coat
his perfect suit in a perfect box
the silence

jacques sees the broken stone doors of old mausoleums in Pere LaChaise
he is fascinated by the play of light on the cobwebs
the cobwebs' tracings of the cracked stained glass
the Christs and Deaths and Saints
the Old Men
always the Old Men
farting in their loungers

jacques listens to the end
shovel clank slush of hard mud
diggers mumbling and pissing
hissing steam against the weak winter sun
then ravens and roots probing the earth
transmitting signals
the earth
collecting the vines
the memories
the coffee and cream
his youth and the war
        nostalgia like maggots
        warmed by decay

under the Seine a young girl is drinking wine
and crying, her fingers curled like question marks in her hair
jacques hears her
and through her
the word