Chinese New Year Parade, Paris, 2010
Bamboo sticks suspended mid-air,
les batteurs are frozen,
along with their red drums.
The cymbal players too
and the girls in sleeveless red and yellow frocks;
from the exhaled breaths
of spectators along le Rue de Payenne
coils of smoke constantly create
a double helix with the streams of ice
from congealed firecrackers, hover
high as the balconies where a few residents
peer out, their eyes becoming distant stars.
Only the dragon moves, slithers with no end in sight,
blocking the street so none can escape.
I fear I will suffer a morte de froid
(O it sounds so much better in French!)
hands stiffening despite three sets of gloves.
When will a gong ring out to end
this cauchemar, this dream that might not be
a dream at all.
Perhaps that is the most interesting question of all: to see what happens when there is nothing, and whether or not we will survive that too.
The old path had ended
so with neither lantern nor guide
I had to break through the bramble
and thick webs, slash my way
through the towering brocage*
that rose on both sides
with nothing to grasp
like that paths that led inland
from Omaha Beach, June ’44.
Still I managed to get through
with only minor scars
unlike many of the men who swam ashore
in the north of France,
but only to enter a place
beyond my power to define,
perhaps the outskirts of death―
but where were the vacant lots
slumped-over buildings with broken
glass windows, wrecked cars.
No, death was still many rest stops away.
I would have to survive
in a way that defied known rules
or directions, the sun no longer providing
clues about time, the stars no maps.
And not a person in sight.
All those alive I once knew
must still be back on the old path
or on one of their own
that would forever run parallel to mine
lacking both channels and bridges.
After all that effort nothing
except what’s far beyond
my field of vision. So I
let myself believe
there must be something
something that resembles nothing known.
Barbara F. Lefcowitz has published nine poetry collections. Her most recent, The Blue Train to America, appeared in 2007. She has won writing fellowships and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in over five hundred journals. An ex-pat New Yorker, she now lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Recently she has begun to write one-act plays. She is also a visual artist.