Saturday, January 06, 2007

Henri Rousseau, le Douanier
The Football Players, 1908
o/c 146cm x 97cm
Kunstmuseum Basel

(Henri Rousseau, 1908)

This was real immortality,
and it was different
from anything they'd ever contemplated (being
in general too busy for such flighty concepts). M. Hyères
had the shop to think of,
but secretly
he hoped perhaps he might die saving someone
on a picnic, if a boat should overturn. (Not Sophie,
though). Or something else as brave ... And Michelin
did not believe in immortality,
though he was very much afraid of worms,
and had some nightmares even Victorine,
with all that softness, could not dispel.
M. Simon
had been good a long time,
tired of it,
and now felt very well. Plenty of exercise,
that was the trick. And M. Barrès
anticipated a vague
garden reunion with Eulalie,
each of them being clad
decently in some sort of flowing white.
But, as I say, no one expected this:
The afternoon was wonderfully fine.
They ran and shouted in their striped suits; Hyères
and Simon, as was customary,
took on the other two,
and Hyères had the ball,
when it slipped suddenly into the air
above his outflung fingers
and stayed there.
Ha! cried Simon, running,
and raised his hands to laugh
at such a clumsy fellow, when he found
himself immobilized with smile and all;
even his running leg was running still.
Barrès was crouched to jump
like a striped tiger
with one arm outflung ---
he snatched a breath,
tipped on his toes
and stayed. Back of the three,
Michelin, alert and gently cynical,
leaned on one thigh
and braced his thin red legs
forever, it turned out.
And no one noticed the familiar trees
were suddenly
and stiffly
made of gold.

Deborah Austin
The Paradise of the World
University Park, Pa., 1964
The Pennsylvania State University.

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