here’s an ode to henri rousseau, the jungle painter who never left paris.
The Dream, Henri Rousseau 1910
Rousseau Relives the Jungle
You follow the soothsayer shadow with her lute
and cobra boa through the season of tiger lilies—
she is an anti-Eve hip-swaying down the black paths
of Paradise, fanned by murky hands of leaf-gloom.
These are the visions that haunt you:
apes among the tangerines, a reticulated sky
of palms and coral sun, the leer of alligator grass
and the blush of the lotus like each kiss-kernel of love
you left in her neck—Oh Henri, awake from your stupor,
your periwinkle daze. Come back to us from the gardens,
the Edens labyrinthine beneath your lids—your trance
is a planar place falling flat on the canvas, but we feel
the stir of teal and linseed on your palette, the rush
of flight you took over the hurricane’s eye. You are
a golden beast prowling indigo thickets, ambushing
the antelope and biting deep into the heavy humid
of flesh and blood, leaving scars nestled in the clavicle.
Your surprise blooms in the gesso wash unfurling
thick as a dream from your brush and lingers
like the drift of jasmine on an electric breeze.
I never write from my own life. I just don’t like it, so I don’t do it. However, I had an experience the other day that was just too poetic to pass up. Thus, a poem…FROM REAL LIFE.
In the bowels of some structure of academia, the globe
gargantuan and slow in its revolutions, creaks
behind me. I explore in the sulci hills and gyri rifts
of the prevailing brain of Homo sapiens:
It is one thing to make plans; to draw cause and effect
relationships with the things you see; and to think
in terms of past, present, and future—but without
the ability to convey these thoughts…success is limited.
In the squawking phenomes of speech and squabbling
thought, the yammering grammars tapping out a code
over my cerebellum, I sink into the drowned
garbage of language. Neurons fire and fail,
nonsensical, jabbering in broken aphasias,
bleating out robotic tones devoid of prosody—
the musical bloom of a lilting larynx, sighing
with each satisfied swallow of articulate life.
A girl appears, blonde hair afloat as she races
toward the Earth, pointing forward, stretching out.
I tell her, “Here is the world! Here! And here!”
But she doesn’t understand. “Donde estamos?”
“Est-ce votre eau?” I don’t understand.
She and her father wander the halls, everything
a thing to touch, to lay her lips over. “QUE? QUE!”
The afternoon lays rippling on the floor
as he bends down, gently pulling on her sleeves.
“You know how to say hi,” he says. She laughs.
“MAS! MAAS!” Her hands dig deep
as she reaches into her father’s pockets.