Régime pour Poètes

Carine was visiting from Paris last week and we went to a couple of poetry readings. She is a poet herself and the editor of a fine French literary journal.

Afterwards she asked me, "Louis, are all your poets si gras, so fat?"

"Carine," I said, "watch what you say here. You could cause great offense with a comment like that."

"Je sais, Louis, I know, but in Paris all of our poets, our best ones, les meilleures, are twigs on branches, long sharp pencils, stylos. They are skinny! Et ils emploient les elements de la poésie—they employ the elements of poetry; they treat poetry like an art form. Here your poets just seem to ramble about their problèms personnels, or express some idées politique bizarres they have that are not based on fact, history, or anything else. And their lines lumber along, waddle like porcs gras, fat pigs. Our poets' lines are quick, agile, like rabbits, lapines; they say what needs to be said, puis sont partis, then move on."

I gave Carine a look.

"I know, I sound critical," she said, "comme chiene, like what you call here 'bitch'; but I really don't understand your poetic values, vos valeurs poétiques, your sensitivity, votre sensibilité, what poetry means to you. And where is the music, la musique, la menthe et le thym?"

"And my poetry?" I asked Carine. I was beginning to take her remarks personally. Moreover, I had gained a few pounds since we last met. "Does it waddle too? Is it comme porc gras?"

"Louis, your poetry is good, c'est très bonne. But sometimes you don't know where to stop when eating or making love. I can almost picture you someday with the double chin too. As an American, you need to be très vigilant! But I love you anyway. Tu es un homme! You are a man! You are my Marcus Brutus, mon Volaire."

I looked away. Carine is prone to hyperbolic metaphor, exagération extrême. It is perhaps her single fault, seul déficit. Moreover, I was not too sure what a "man" was anymore; San Francisco had cured me of any idée fixe on that one. I dropped the subject of my own poetry.

"Carine," I said, "let us go somewhere private, privé, where no one can overhear us and discuss all this, okay?"

There is nothing worse than offending poets. Most, I think, don't carry guns; but this is États-Unis, the United States, and you never know. And so many women now carry canisters of pepper spray. I guess that makes them "women," les femme formidables!

"Qui, Louis, je comprends. Maybe we get a good bottle of wine—French wine!—and discuss this privé. What do you say?"

"Une Bourdeaux, Saint-Emilion?" I suggested.

"Qui, qui est très bonne. Do you want to come back to the hotel with me?"

"Do you have anything to eat there?" I asked.

"Qui, un peu de fromage et du pain."

"C'est bon," I said. "I don't think we will get fat on that and start larding our words."

"We will eat like mice, comme souris," said Carine. "And we can look for the lost metaphor in the purple tint of the wine. You like looking for lost things—'memories' and 'the lost child in the grass'. I like, j'aime, that piece of yours called 'Passage to Life'."

"And I will search for the simile in votre joli nez," I said.

"And I will search for the symbol in votre puissant ..." Carine chuckled without finishing her sentence.

"And I will determine the metrical pattern of our combined breathing," I said.

"There will be no modèle, no metrical pattern," said Carine. "We will breath librement."

"That is better, mieux," I said.

"And I will cause le cymbale d'or to crash at just the right moment," she said.

"And afterwards I will lite your fat cigarette, le Galois," I said, "and listen to your slow exhalation, sharing in your exalted state of being. Oh, joyeuse vie!"

"And then we will fall asleep together," said Carine, "like cats, comme les chats, on a pillow, the perfect visual poem; slim, beautiful, rhyming in rhythm with the night; nuit noire, paix parfaite, ronronnement."

"D'accord," I said. "We will do it just like that!"

"But really, mon amie," said Carine, "I think we need to write a diet for your poets, un régime; otherwise they will not live so long. And the pot belly, the double chin, these are not beautiful things to behold when listening to la belle poésie."

"Matin, Tomorrow." I said. "Let's go get the wine now."

"Ça c'est bon, mon amie; we will make a poem, be a poem, know the bliss of the metaphor."
By Louis Martin