Coco Chanel at Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
All hail the end of the
spectacle, pieces of
on the sidewalk,
evolution of la langue,
after the fall of Paris,
to decorative art.
Nurse, I want to get to the end
of the story, the song.
I want a final death
in my bolero jacket,
poised in my front-row
loge seat, accepting
the violence of the
track: hooves pounding,
dust flying, emcee
badly sutured by a quack
doctor on the plane to nowhere,
where I am instructed to enjoy,
beatifically, the end
of the sensible world.
Dear Ganglion. Dear aorta.
Dear progenitor. Dear nerve.
Dear darling lady in a pencil
skirt, your skittish laughter,
like an emergency brake
applied to the non-event
of history, turns me on.
Dear one of helter-skelter
lifestyle choices and
even worse savoir-faire:
You treat your body like the
common ancestor it is.
Dear gray matter.
Dear black matter.
Dear hurdy gurdy of memory,
drawing us back, and in.
Dear memory of romance,
longing for its objet perdu,
Chanel No. 5, 4, 3, or 2:
In the air, there your root remains, in the air.
I shudder without theater or jest, for you.
Helen Keller’s Eternal Flame
Humming a song that hasn’t yet been invented,
he is standing at the foot of my bed,
certain parts of his body missing, as if erased
with white-out in a final draft of a student thesis
on the Industrial Revolution or the Scientific Method,
as applied to aesthetics, or porn. Let us go now,
you and I, into a dub-step remix of a bee-loud glade,
I thought I heard him say. As in every beginning,
I counted out the syllables in my palm, traced
the letters of his name on my thigh. We’ll vacation
in Reykjavik, he said, live in an igloo, and swoon.
He speaks 14 languages. His eyes gleam.
He has never been married, until now.
Helen Keller Confesses All
I once threw kings, like toy soldiers,
off the map of the world. Two-dimensional
in my eyes, empire could be yanked
like a tablecloth from a table,
preserving only the original frame.
Now I know what others have suffered
from me, for I burn with the love
of my own self . . . Only death
can set me free, saith Narcissus,
to himself. Being blind is like that.
Yet the more a work costs,
the greater the status it confers.
Is dysfunction and difference
a commodity value, or cachet?
Lord, I am concerned about
the sumptuary value of the soul.
How it’s constructed, and undone
by acts of language: molotov cocktail
of the noun and the verb.
Helen Keller’s Honeymoon in Antibes
In my seeing there was a blank and he filled that blank
with words: lighthouse, absinthe, Côte d’Azur, reverb.
He carved a space in the gray matter of my brain, asked:
what is lithium, but a siphoning of the voltage of mind?
We worked the crossword: amour propre, amour fou.
Only idiots, French or otherwise, I said,
willingly engage in a folie à deux.
Pas de retour. Loup garou. I taught
him the footwork of Isadore Duncan;
the melancholic strains of Beethoven’s
late string quartets, composed in his
Third Period, when he was entirely deaf.
I want to outsmart death, he whispered.
Myself, I said, I want to outsmart you.
Author of Vox Populi (Finishing Line Press), and a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (forthcoming, Noctuary Press), Virginia Konchan’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Best New Poets, The Believer, The New Republic, and Verse. Co-founder of Matter, a journal of poetry and political commentary, she lives in Montreal.