Friday, January 28, 2011

Partage Du Matin

Both the title and reflective image of a woman that Marie-France creates in her beautiful painting, "Voyage Immobile" inspired this poem. I thought of a poetic lady looking through her window at the sky and stone wall in the distance. She reflects on one of her favorite plays by French playwright, Paul Claudel. Her mind envisions the rock-built fence as the side of a ship's deck, a pleasure boat from the early part of the 20th Century. And she becomes one of its imaginary passengers observing the moods and habits of those characters from the drama, Partage de Midi or The Break of Noon.

In his famous work, Paul Claudel examines the complexity of human nature interacting with opulence, passionate sin and malaise. His characters not only cross over the international dateline while at sea, but also the boundary of temptation. My title,"Partage Du Matin", refers to that morning divide between dawn and midday, routine and retreat. The speaker is fascinated by the opulent life aboard ship and becomes a witness to the intrigue and adulterous flirtations. Yet, she feels isolated from the characters, apart from the action and confident she is blessed with a good and true husband. Her presence here is simply diversion's luxury, an indulgence in morning reverie and speculation. As they cross the meridian, she twists her wedding ring and returns to reality. She knows her husband is building a trellis for them in the garden and calls him in for breakfast. The simple but ritualistic act of grinding his coffee and peeling oranges becomes a pleasure, a testament to her happiness and delight in serving a partner who equally serves her. This outshines those sparkling trays of champagne; and she understands that her marriage has been a voyage of cherished years and mutual sacrifice.

The cohesive force in this poem that connects land and sea, dream and reality, is the presence of the blackbird. Poised on tangled vines, he welcomes the light and watches its intensity bloom into that illuminated window of imagination. When the wife debarks from her mental journey, he flies off, startled by the sound of hammered nails and signals that morning has resumed its normal routine, time is no longer suspended by thought.

Partage du Matin

(Traveling in modes of thought)

Besides the blackbird poised

on tangled vines that net

a flash of sun --

there is the east window.

* * * * *

This window with its shutters

open, launched for daylight,

views the sky and stone

wall changing to the side

of a ship's deck

that hosts the shuffle

of chairs and cards.

I am already there

sailing on Claudel's cruise

into the South China Sea.

I wear pearls and smile

confident my husband is loyal

while most characters cheat

gambling with a sacred trust.

Their noonday sun

is so hot that shadows seem

like stains of cardinal sin

on their nautical white

cuffs and pleats.

Champagne glitters

on silver trays. We cross

the meridian

into the next day, another scene

of decadence -- but I

twist my ring

as if turning a doorknob

and resume life in our Summer home.

* * * * *

The curtains ripple, full

of your shadow in the garden

and light hammering of nails.

A bird startled

and our trellis nearly built,

I call you in

for breakfast, grateful

to grind the coffee,

to peel cold fruit

for a man I love

so much more

than on the day I wove

orange blossoms through my hair.


Note -- The lovely painting is called "Voyage Immobile" by artist, Marie-France Riviere. More of her evocative work can be seen here --

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