Robert Gibbons


Make it New, in Oku, Boston, or Miami

I had my head deep in the pages of a book, almost underwater, & very far away in time, in place. 1689, back roads of Oku. The windows of the high-speed ferry were fogged up when Basho spoke of fishermen rowing over cherry blossoms. Then I noticed fellow passengers' heads craned starboard so I strained to look in that direction: just the massive Norwegian Sea, luxury liner, a commonplace sight nowadays. Out port side I preferred the iron barge hauling a mountain of Big-Dig dirt off the South Boston dock. Juxtaposing these two giants in relation to the delicacy of Basho's details, our time diminished. But stepping out on deck, I saw what I'd missed with my head in 17th-century Japan: The Constitution, helped along like a frail octogenarian by four tugs, & guarded by two Coast Guard patrol boats. Suddenly, I saw before me the splendor of those three-masted barques from the East India Company anchored in the harbors of Asia. Disembarking, I was ready for the awe of discovery, the mystery of the utterly new.


The Internal & External are One: I’d Love to Go to the Keys

again, for Kathleen

Sun rolled down, noticeably, on the horizon even at the beginning of August, back toward the equator. The sea, the sun, & of all things, Paris, on my mind. The Balthus, Le Passage du Commerce-Saint-Andre; (I met a woman once who knew the artist, during his days in Rome, & one could see why, the remnants of youth Anna Cavina exuded in her gait, pronouncing his name before he added the “h,” “Baltooz,” she’d say); the light torn open on the victim in his La Chambre; even the light-heartedness of La Chat de la Mediterranee painted as a sign for the restaurant we ate in quite late one night, after films, around Place de L’Odeon.

That kind of summer morning, here, where there is no mystery to solve, no heaviness of death, just immediacy & memory, two states Freud believed could not possibly coexist. I’ve bridged them, on rare occasions. With an ink-stained hand I reach for my breakfast of olives & coffee. At the restaurant that night in Paris, as if in dream, we started with Champagne & mussels, finished with chocolate & Champagne. The fishermen trawling in front of me can’t imagine a man on the shore with pen in hand, rainbow turning to leaping fish (in the painting, in his head) landing on the table & plate of a voracious cat. Woman coming out of the water.

Rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts, where we found the two Man Ray prints stashed inside a book on the sale table (like loose pages inside a book.) The pensive little girl in the “Baltooz” Passage is black. It’s so clear today that the earth’s meridian is discernable at horizon line. The cat has the lean body of a man. In every hotel room we stayed in I’d tear open velvet curtains at first light onto her naked body, ravished as it was time & again, in Paris, in Nice, in Reims. I had that devilish look the gnome has in La Chambre, of discovery or revelation. I’m glad you couldn’t see it. It must have had that same obscene look of lust, or perhaps the one the painter refers to in himself as instinctive.

Owners of the beach-front property behind me are so jealous of the man living in the present, here, Paris, then, that they’ve whacked a tennis ball for little cocker to fetch. I give them all a different, devil-killer’s eye, & they back off, in fright. Sun is slowly rolling south. The water wants me, listen: warm voice. Passage, La Chambre painted during the same two years’ Time. The internal & external are one, for any man witnessing his own Time, living night memories of Paris.