Tuesday, May 1, 2012


                                               A BOWL OF PLUMS  
                          Painting by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin, 1728;
                                     Poem by Salvatore Buttaci, 1994

Clarisse was not at the market this morning.
What made me think she would be?                                      
How many mornings have I walked the dog,
battled with him at the leash 
because it was not his usual route,
a neighborhood so unfamiliar as to frighten him?

Like the dog we are all habit's creatures:
we do what we know how, what we've done,
what we expect of ourselves, don't we?
It is when we find ourselves stranded
from our routines, in unfamiliar neighborhoods,
that we become fearful, our neat lives disheveled,
the schedule we follow suddenly failing us.

Clarisse was not at the market again this morning.
Pulling on his leash as if I had unintentionally strayed,
Roi strained his terrier head in the direction of home,
but I ignore him. Instead, I look from merchant to merchant:
the flower stand where you would bring home 
magenta freesias or pink canterbury bells 
so the flowers, you said, would have a good home;

the fish peddler, the wine dealer, the dairyman--
I cannot find Clarisse anywhere.
Still, each morning now for weeks, I return here,
afraid to lose hope, a slave to the old life.
One day she disappeared.
I repeat those words like a punish lesson
over and over again.
One day she disappeared.
One day she disappeared.

"I am not happy anymore," she said that morning
in a voice so sad it did not sound her own.
"Who is? I replied, making light of what I saw as light.
"Life's a struggle, isn't it?" I asked.  

Clarisse was not at the market this morning.
Roi is impatient: he has taken now to growling.
She may be gone but he is hungry, anxious to go home
where his food and water dishes will be filled for him
as they are filled every day. 
It is the way Roi expects things to be done.

At the fruit and vegetable stand visions flood my head.
Here where Clarisse and I gave our own names to the
apple, the orange, the potato--we gave them all names!
"A pound of Eves," she'd say for the apples,
"Two pounds of" this and that, which made us laugh
when the old woman asked us to point to what we wanted.

"Can I help you, Monsieur?" she asks me now.
"Yes, I am looking for Clarisse," I say to her.
"Clarisse?" she asks, reaching for the blackberries.
"These, Monsieur?  Clarisse. Let me see," she says,
then with her toothless smile she laughs.
"Of course, of course! These plums. These Clarisse!"
I do not have the heart to walk away
so I pay her for the bag of plums she hands to me.
"And your lady?" she asks. 
"Will she be baking you a plum pie today?"


1 comment:

  1. Love the poem. Worried for Clarisse as I should be as we all should be...for For Whom the Bell Tolls. (but often living in the crowds of cities, we are not)