For My Old Self, At Notre Dame:
Fluctuat nec mergitur
By Marie Ponsot
The dark madonna cut from a knot of wood
has robes whose folds make waves against the grain
and a touching face – noble in side view,
impish or childish seen head-on from above.
The wood has the rich stain of tannin, raised
to all-color lustre by the steep of time.
The mouths of her shadows are pursed by time
to suck sun-lit memories from the wood.
Freezing damp and candle-smut have raised
her eyebrows into wings flung up by the grain,
caught in the light of bulbs plugged high above.
She stands alert, as if hailed, with beasts in view.
Outside on the jeweled river-ship, I view
a girl’s back, walking off. Oh. Just in time
I shut up. She’d never hear me shout above
the tour-guides and ski-skate kids. How I would
have liked to see her face again, the grain
of beauty on her forehead, her chin raised
startled; her Who are you? wild, a question raised
by seeing me, an old woman, in plain view.
Time is a tree in me; in her it’s a grain
ready to plant. I go back in, taking my time
leafy among stone trunsk that soar in stone woods
where incense drifts, misty, lit pink from above.
She’s headed for her hotel room then above
Cluny’s garden. She’ll sit there then, feet raised
notebook on her knees, to write. Maybe she would
have heard, turned, known us both in a larger view
and caught my age in the freshness of its time.
She dreads clocks, she says. Such dry rot warps the grain.
They still say mass here. Wine and wheat-grain
digest to flesh in words that float above
six kneeling women, a man dressed outside time,
and the dark madonna, her baby raised
dangerously high to pull in our view.
Magic dame, cut knot, your ancient wood
would reach back to teach her if it could. Spring rain.
Through it I call to thank her, loud above
the joy she raised me for, this softfall. Sweet time.