Address to Winnie in Paris

By | 11 January 2008

Winnie, I am writing this on behalf of my friend Harris. He loves you and wants you to love him. I have never been to Paris, but I have heard that it is a good place to be in love in.The Arc de Triomphe is real. The Jardin des Tuileries is real. The Eiffel Tower is very real. The carafe of wine, the remains of dinner, the bill: all real. None are necessary to your life.

Harris has confided that he enjoys dating. To profess such a thing is to advertise a facility for one kind of loneliness, which has nothing to do with the other kind: the one you did not know was there until afterward.The part of the betrayal which wounds the most is hearing that it has already happened.

Diderot wrote that the word is not the thing, but a flash in whose light we perceive the thing. Plato wrote of the need to be reconjoined with the rest of oneself. My analyst speaks of codependent impulses in modern society. These various explanations are metaphors for an inaccessible truth.

In de Laclos, a betrayal is an invitation to a string of further betrayals, each one taking you further from the original. If the hell for lovers consists in being betrayed, the hell for the beloved consists in betraying. These hells constitute the world.

A much older friend writes: Most romances do not last, and it is best to forget them. Tolstoy writes: All happy families are alike. My teacher says: Bad poems are all bad for the same reason: imprecision.

Around you move many seas. It is impossible not to drown a little. In Bulfinch's, an anchor is let down into the garden. This is to remind us that we live underwater.

Up above the high-water mark, angels with their teeth and their sharp little wings watch us with murderous disinterest. They sentence us for the one crime we all commit.

It is said by area doctors that cowboys notoriously misrepresent their degree of pain. For this reason their diseases progress far beyond the point at which treatment is beneficial. Are they lying?

If I could read only one sentence for the rest of my life, it would be the one where the jailer says to Socrates I can see that you are a good man, the best one that has ever been in this place.

These examples are meant to dissuade you, Winnie, from loving men other than my friend Harris. He asked me to write this poem.

Arvol Looking Horse, a Sioux leader, called Devils Tower the heart of everything that is. Very large objects remind us of the possibility of the infinite, which has no size at all. But we understand it as something very, very large.

What the lover seeks is the possibility of return, the strange heart beating under every stone.


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