When no value's placed on autographs,
And when in time my couplets
And their epitaphs
Have finally called it quits
And placed their eminent domain
With some blasé bookiniste
Prone to mise-en-Seine
(Where poetry is ex-libris'd)—
When that day comes, never mind:
Feats continue without Guinness,
And books survive, although unsigned,
Because they're bound, in fact, within us.
Rue de Varenne
March 25–26, 2005
This is a poem on the cheerful topic of writers’ widows, on that twilight which falls after the words, the half-life of tropes. I was thinking of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), by Stacy Schiff; The Widows of Russia, by Carl Proffer; and the burden placed on literary survivors: what do we do with the corpse, and the corpus? And by association, the universal fate of all remaindered books, most romantically those in the bookstands along the Seine, the bookinistes. I finished this on Easter, 2005, a fitting time to be thinking of rising from the dead.
Eminent domain is the questionable practice of expropriating property, of seizing land, or, by extrapolation, the right of societies to decide the fate of authors after their deaths, expropriating poetry. We seize their reputations. Demesne, or domain, also means realm. It is similar to the French word domaine, which means property, outbuildings, grounds. It can rhyme with the French or the American version of the river Seine (two different sounds).
I have preserved the myriad false directions, the fool’s-gold caskets whose safes protect all writers against their futures, the treasure chest of possibilities which in fact stand in the way of the one truth, which may or may not be cobbled together from the cortège of lies, from the ragged suitors who present themselves to the virginal couplet. As with golf, some might question both the process and the result, but I’ve saved the process because, like any chess puzzle, it illustrates the maze through which desperate pawns stumble on the path to fulguration, eight metaphors in pursuit of one idea.
This, to Cathy, was inscribed in the first volume. Other examples of this tendency of a book to generate seedlings strewn about it on the forest floor, all in this volume, are “Another Autograph,” “Autograph,” “Event Horizon,” and “In the Season of the Day.”
Rue de Varenne
March 25th–26th, 2005