Spring 2011

Table of Contents - Vol. VII, No. 1

Poetry    Translations    Fiction

Peter J Grieco

Choses sauvages

Alice in Wonderland as depicted in a shop window

The woman who designs these scenes
dyes her hair black with wide streaks of
color, maroon one month, orange the next.
Though she studied as a goldsmith,
she doesn’t make any of the jewelry.
Instead, she clerks, & she decorates
(for Halloween, she scissored shells
of clementines into shrunken pumpkin
heads), & she assembles these wide-eyed
window displays that never fail to
captivate the crowd coming out of Kuni’s.
If fantasy & ornament are one of the wild poles
of our history, the other must be sheer
inarticulate passion, for what else draws
us to gaze at this tea party?

Nor are novices the only ones that make
these mistakes, confusing sauver & sauvage,
to rescue the wild things, to be rescued
by them. The same with horses & hair.
My Korean students mixed up awkward
& squid, in Ankara it was lion & snake.
The linguistically curious are at least more
aware of the problems of squeezing
out meaning—when the general unreliability
of language is being compounded by
the social deterioration of its use—which
is never as simple as correct or incorrect—
while not wanting to admit how the little
misunderstandings keep piling up, until
what it is we are turns out to be gross
accident—favoring instead a myth
of pure understanding. “Use your words,”
a father prompted his stymied daughter,
as if they alone could pull her from the well.
“Use your words.”

But whereas Cohen in Montreal was taken
to a place by the river to be served
Chinese oranges, here “there is a table
set out under a tree,” & Alice gathers with
the Hatter & the Hare, in the company of an ink
black raven, & a writing desk appointed in black
jade. “I always say what I mean,” she insists.
You might as well say, “I get what I like!”
digresses the Hatter. But being half crazy
isn’t enough. Moving over one place, the
perpetual party continues. Next time, Emilie,
we’ll sit in your garden, surrounded by May roses
& ask Pampinea to tell one of her stories.
Lifting your glass of lavender tea, you’ll
give me your secret for coaxing luscious fruit
from gnarly vines. How well you’ve adapted
to all these changes, I’ll say. As evening falls,
some of the ladies will want to dance,
to songs a wild heart sings.

                for Emilie, 7 November 2010

© Peter J Grieco

Poetry    Translations    Fiction

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