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Portrait Of A Lady
GH (5 3 38 / leipzig)

Portrait Of A Lady

Without the windings of my violin
you cannot hear attenuated tones
I used to play, nor do my fingers spin
the dials that they turned on telephones
to reach you from across the River Thames
when you were living with your mother and
your father, wearing skirts with higher hems
than those that frummer morals now command.

Nearly every morning there’s a fog
that blurs our vision, which is never very bright
except on Friday evenings when we jog
each other’s memory by candlelight,
and since we know each other’s love is far,
far more important now than in our youth,
and losing it would be a cauchemar,
we learn each other’s version of the truth.

Inspired by T. S. Eliot’s “Portrait of a Lady”


Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon
You have the scene arrange itself-as it will seem to do-
With 'I have saved this afternoon for you';
And four wax candles in the darkened room,
Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead,
An atmosphere of Juliet's tomb
Prepared for all the things to be said, or left unsaid.
We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole
Transmit the Preludes, though his hair and fingertips.
'So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul
Should be resurrected only among friends
Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom
That is rubbed and questioned in the concert room.'
-And so the conversation slips
Among velleities and carefully caught regrets
Through attenuated tones of violins
Mingled with remote cornets
And begins.
'You do not know how much they mean to me, my friends,
And how, how rare and strange it is, to find
In a life composed so much, so much of odds and ends,
[For indeed I do not love it... you knew? you are not blind!
How keen you are! ]
To find a friend who has these qualities,
Who has, and gives
Those qualities upon which friendship lives.
How much it means that I say this to you-
Without these friendships-life, what cauchemar! '

Among the windings of the violins
And the ariettes
Of cracked cornets
Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins
Absurdly hammering a prelude of its own,
Capricious monotone
That is at least one definite 'false note.'
-Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance,
Admire the monuments,
Discuss the late events,
Correct our watches by the public clocks.
Then sit for half and hour and drink our bocks.

6/2/05

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