Thursday, December 16, 2010

Madame Neige (Madame Snow)

Madame Neige is a wry and whimsical look at the snow fall that besieged Paris in early December. Streets were blocked, motorists and travelers held hostage by the white tantrum of weather.

The speaker in the poem is viewing this wintry situation through her window. She compares the snow's entrance to that of a pale empress overtaking the area with commanding presence. This image is beautifully illustrated by Marie-France's painting, "Neige". Its swirled landscape and chilled grace complement the lines ---sailed in, swirling/ around Île-de-France / in her sabled cloak and gown.

As the poem progresses, the woman muses to herself that such a climatic invasion may be payback, avenging the campaign Napoleon launched to conquer Russia in 1812. And though "all avenues are blocked " and citizens "blend' into this waiting, she is hopeful the next day will be clearer. Her outlook predicts the sky will be "punctuated with a scant circling of birds, a breath of freedom, a pause in this run-on occurrence of snow and fog.

The east wind
curtsies with a nervous chill
and the river swallows
a lump of ice --

the pale empress
has sailed in, swirling
around Île-de-France
in her sabled cloak and gown.

Streets become a garland
of car lights
twisting through Paris
with agitated sparkle.

And from my window,
I smile. Napoleon
tried to invade Russia
with his grand army
but failed --

and now her ghost arrives
with a cold coup d'état
All avenues are blocked
and we blend
into this waiting, the skyline
an endless sentence
of fog. Tomorrow
it will be clearer, punctuated
with a scant circling
of birds.
The snow-laden landscape is a lovely, Winter painting by French artist, Marie-France Riviere.

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