Reading Diane Seuss

Don’t say Paris

No one says Paris anymore.
There’s no such thing as Paris, no
Café de la Paix, no Titian’s Entombment

in t he Louvre or Hotel La Sanguine
with amaranth petals on the sheets. Don’t
say Paris. When you utter the word

I take off my long red gloves. I prepare
my hands to be stroked. I’m an idiot
that way, a Parisian to the bone. Once,

on some Rue or other, I was not alone.
The city, blue. My black coat opened
and gave birth to my body as I walked.

You dare speak of Paris? You unlatch
the door in the cage, that word comes
blooming out, orange feathers ignite

the room. My room the color of sage
in fog. And now, Paris, breaking
the mirrors, exposing the cobbled

alleyways behind them. Who says
Paris? Now I swirl my nipples
with Le Rouge Baiser. Or did you

mean Paris, Kentucky? Or just Paris,
a word tossed off like an exploding peony
dropped from the swaying top of that tall

steel tower? Paris, a bitter word,
a word to be spit into a lace handkerchief
like the pit of some pink-fleshed fruit,

stolen from the garden of the rich, in whose
sweetness a woman like me can drown.
Paris, where I loved and suffered, where

the enemy flag opened and flared, poppy
with a spider inside. Liberation, another
suspicious bit of language, a perfumed

envelope holding no letter. Paris, you say.
I have shut down the Office de Tourisme,
covered the windows with flowering vines,

casting those rooms in purple light.
I have wrapped my lips around that word
until it throbbed like Bouguereau’s

La Madone aux Roses.

Spring’s confessional poem
“yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

i’ve opened
my blouse to you and your heavy
head between my

and i’ve unlatched my
and spread my

here i’ve said here
and there’s that snowdrop you love to touch
(my hair like mink my skin unfurling like a wedding)

an array of sweetness for your pleasure
(pink ones and lilac-flavored ones)
and teased out the spray of seeds

verbs my specialty
stroked and furrowed
until you think i’m one way

but i’m another way

kissed your belly kissed and kissed
(wild roses among the lilacs
eggs among the nests woven from chemotherapy hair)

Wolf Lake, white gown blown open

White sky, a tinge of blue,
birds like silver crucifixes
children wear at their First Communion—

the lake, melted candelabra—

no wind, no dust of summer moths, no weeping.

Lichen sleeps like fur on a dead thing
and the bones of the trees don’t creak
and the woody stems of the cattails hold
the earth steady—

for instance

I once fished here, bass after bass,
shined like the flashlight down their throats
and saw all the way to the gold ovaries,
gill slits like louvered blinds
letting out light—

meat, heart, memory.

The boat was the green of naiveté,
the oars mismatched,

and who was that girl—a bride—

catching everything
and releasing nothing?

*

Jack in the Pulpit breaks through.
Purple veins comb the spathe, then the spadex
furred-over with male and female blooms
and the cone of firm red berries—

and the trillium’s white gown blown open—

and the lapping sound of water,
like a dog compelled to lick itself.

Lake infested with black swans,
beaks breaking the surface tension
of the water

then pulling out, swallowing down
a writhing fish, another,

dissatisfied.

*

There is mist, there is a smudge of moonlight on the water—

lake the color of the groom’s Italian leather shoes.

I grind against him on the muddy edge,
open the gold buttons to get to the skin,
the throbbing lip and tongue and cock—

flesh, right now, the wet smear of him
on my palm and lips and inside me,
inside, where I live, right now bitter with him,
dandelion juice, phosphorous,

muck, milk, food—

and beneath us snail shells burst
like the skulls of the dead in the crematorium.

*

There is body, there is experience, there is narrative,
there is idea, memory, philosophy, love—

and there are gods
and there are the operas of the gods—

there is desire
and desire’s cold blue-eyed twin—

and this place in-between—water,
weeds bound like tangled fishing line,
bones washed clean,

and ghosts, laced and corseted, dragging
their anchors and sinkers and veils.

*

all from Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010

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About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she works as the Departmental Secretary of English and World Language Studies at Indiana University South Bend, and remains closely affiliated with 42 Miles Press, New Issues Poetry and Prose, and Wolfson Press. She previously received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Editor of Poetry for Third Coast. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, Whale Road Review, The James Franco Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on her website and on The Rumpus. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and three cats. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com. View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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