Diamond & Dagger

          Beauty can pierce one like a pain.
                                             —Mann1

                              Fame is, after all, only the sum of all the misunderstandings
                                                            that gather around a new name.

                                                                                               —Rilke2

                              i. Le Chabanais,
                                             12 rue Chabanais

Paris fell to Hitler then, but I never did, not for him—
     sauntering down the corridor, ’couldn’t walk past a mirror
     without seducing it, fairest though he seemed, always wanting
     to be my husband, ’just wasn’t having it, there were far more

     impressive specimens breathing out fire, looking back at me
     whenever heat needed a reason to believe, the devil
     himself frosting dark glasses just to receive my heart’s icy
     reprieve, pouring in mischief, lapping up its liquor until

     history favoured victims, until I took over and wrote
     my own chronicle, boulevards of stolen jaguars alarmed
     against his pilfering, this clueless, silver suitor my soul
     dimmed its shine for, to impress him, igniting me, he’d been warned

     not to dull razors, boring me, he never once came or faced
     people without pulling my patience off its frame, what a waste.

                              ii. Le Sphinx,
                                             31 boulevard Edgar-Quinet

Winter wandered in when nationalism blanketed lions
     with fur lifted from a lie, truth too human skinned for terror
     in sight of civilization, the future dying silent
     couldn’t take snow’s test pattern blindness, witnesses with tapers

     curling up like burning paper, writing off their injuries
     in lightning stolen with swollen palms and arms so primeval
     waxing so Promethean, taking down heaven, so to speak
     making the statement that famous men will remain mythical

     until we throw off smothering faith and take a leap tonight
     down from lofty altars, leaving our Egos as offering
     facing ocean depths, looking toward our Selves, our lives the rite
     and your devotion to me that for which I’m praying, my words

     singing seas of Telemachies, sons setting up soundstages—
     scenes crews dig deep, shooting secrets we’ll keep, pretty but nameless.

                              iii. Le One-Two-Two,
                                             122 rue de Provence

Beauty can pierce one moment like a pain, making permanent
     stigmatic tragedy—static freedom of pre-dawn colours
     burned into hand and foot, stained glass miracles perverted skin
     can’t handle, not unless it looks and lasts longer and better

     than forever, immortality contains infinities
     no one can ever fully encounter unless they travel
     beyond reality’s ritual, since personality
     and persona differ: one assumed, the other ancestral

     and hurt’s only a metric, a measure of a heart whose life
     never cheated death, but beat its march, arriving here unharmed
     and I’ve faced its art, glancing upon its mouth’s breathless divide
     too dark to go in, too bright to let its tongue inside the warmth

     of my wide, fevered mind, but in Paris I spied him, death’s great
     grandson, asking if my misunderstanding was his mistake.

__________
1Thomas Mann, “Part Eleven: Chapter II”, translated from the German by H. T. Lowe-Porter in the second of two volumes comprising, Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, New York: The Modern Library, 1924; page 305. Written during 1897–1900 and first published as, “Elfter Teil: Zweites Kapitel”, in the second of two volumes comprising, Buddenbrooks: Verfall einer Familie [Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family], Berlin: S. Fischer, 1901; page 455: “Da hatte ihn ein Anfall jener gänzlichen Verzagtheit überwältigt, die er so wohl kannte. Er hatte wieder empfunden, wie wehe die Schönheit tut, wie tief sie in Scham und sehnsüchtige Verzweiflung stürzt und doch auch den Mut und die Tauglichkeit zum gemeinen Leben verzehrt [sic].”
2Rainer Maria Rilke, “First Part”, translated from the German and edited by Stephen Mitchell, with an introduction by Robert Hass, in The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, New York: Vintage, 1982; page 308. Written in 1902 and first published as, “Erster Teil” in Meister der Skulptur: Auguste Rodin [Masters of Sculpture: Auguste Rodin], Berlin: Brandus’scher, 1903; originally published in a first edition featuring Constantin Meunier by Karl Scheffler, page 1: “Denn Ruhm ist schliesslich nur der Inbegriff aller Missverständnisse, die sich um einen neuen Namen sammeln [sic].”