Poetry: The Book of my Enemy — Reflections in an Extended Kitchen | clivejames.com
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Reflections in an Extended Kitchen

Late summer charms the birds out of the trees
On to our lawn, where the cat gets them.
Aware of this but not unmanned, Matisse
Makes the whole room as sexy as the girl.

‘Distributed voluptuousness,’ he said,
Matching the decor to her lazy gaze.
Just book me on the first flight to Morocco.
You see what I see? Feathers on the grass.

Nothing so sordid in Henri’s back yard
Where coloured shapes may touch, but not to crush.
Look at that death-trap out there, lined with roses!
We grew a free-fire zone with fertilizer.

Caught on the ground like the Egyptian Air Force
A wrecked bird on its back appears outraged:
It could have been a contender. What a world
Of slam-bang stuff to float one fantasy

Amongst her figured curtains, blobs for flowers,
Lolling unlocked in filmy harem pants!
Where did we see her first? That place they called
Leningrad. She looked like History’s cure,

And even he could use that. When he turned
An artful blank back on his wife and child
They were arrested, leaving him to paint
In peace a world with no Gestapo in it —

A dream that came true. Agonies recede,
And if his vision hid harsh facts from him
It sharpens them for us. Best to believe
He served an indispensable ideal:

Douceur de vivre on a heroic scale —
Heaven on Earth, the Land of Oobladee,
Cloud Nine and Shangri-La hooked to the wall
As bolt holes for the brain, square wishing wells.

Suppose that like his brush my pen could speak
Volumes, our cat might stay in shape to pounce,
But only on the arm of that soft chair
You sit in now and where you would lie lulled,

An ageless, in-house odalisque couchée
Never to be less languorous than this,
Always dissolving in the air around you
Reality’s cruel purr with your sweet whisper —

And nothing would be terrible again,
Nor ever was. The fear that we once felt
For daughters fallen ill or just an hour
Late home: it never happened. That dumb bird
Stayed in its tree and I was true to you.