Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

What Doesn't Happen

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

What Doesn't Happen

Article excerpt

The notion that the carriage wheels clattering through Paris

remind him of the drums from the islands in his father's tales:

clickclack sputterwhir-he could make a song of it, dance

this four-in-hand down the cobbles of the rue du Bac

as he balances his small weight against the pricking cushions

clacksputter whir-all the cadences jumbled together

except the thudding dirge of his heart.

That he can see, in curtained twilight, the violin case in his lap

twitch with every jounce, like an animal trapped under the hunter's eye;

that he can sense, down shrouded alleys, danger rustling just as surely

as he can feel spring's careless fingers feathering his chest and smell

April's ferment in the stink of the poor marching toward him. . . .

Though none of this is true. He hears nothing but clatter.

He can't see the rain-slicked arc of the bridge passing under him

as the pale stone of the palace rears up and he climbs down

to be whisked into the massive Salle des Machines,

his father's cloak folded back like a bat's tucked wing

because it was a dry spring that year on the Continent.

Nonetheless, he ignores his heart's thudding and steps out

onto the flickering stage, deep and treacherous

as a lake still frozen at sunset, aglow with reflected light. …

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