The Rhône Valley
High walls, sheer and powerful.
All New York could fit here,
along with its airports
and its city of underground hallways.
But the Rhône doesn't wait for comparisons,
it flows swiftly, drunk on its own youth.
The vineyards are more cautious — they never rush,
they lie on hillsides, placid as the Swiss.
While the clouds travel on to Italy, to Bergamo,
to Padua and Ravenna — crossing borders.
The valley contains memory,
gray as stones, as granite.
The young Rhône rushes to the sea
but thoughts move in the opposite direction.
Streams fall endlessly
in white robes of mist
as imagination, like a solitary climber,
battles daily with the force of gravity.
The old masters still live here,
unrecognizable, under assumed names,
in modest houses, little gardens;
you may catch sight of them in summer evenings,
when lazy bonfires blaze
— they tend bees and hollyhocks,
naive like Le Douanier Rousseau.
You and I are silent, attending the night.
It takes us even higher than the Alps.
And the lovely Garonne, which passes
through drowsy villages each night
like a priest with the last sacrament.
Dark clouds grow in the sky.
The Visigoths live on, in certain faces.
In summer the empire of insects spreads.
You consider how not to be yourself:
is it only on journeys, in valleys,
which open others' wounds?
In a bookshop the sales clerk calls
the author of To the Lighthouse
Virginia. As if she might
turn up at any minute, on a bicycle,
with her long, sad face.
But Paul Valery (of the Academy) thought
history didn't exist. Perhaps he was right.
Perhaps we've been taken in. When he was dying,
General de Gaulle tried to find him
penicillin. Too late.
Carts full of hay
abandoned the town
in greatest quiet.
Cautious glances from the curtains.
A morning empty as a waiting room.
The rustling of papers in the archives;
men calculate the losses.
But that world.
Sing for it, oriole,
dance for it, little fox,