Stride Magazine - www.stridemagazine.co.uk

 

from THE MATISSE BAG
by D. M. Norsworthy


    A white woman in a red jacket walks a white poodle in a red sweater. Pigeons fly from a child waving her velvet arms. The man speaks Italian to the boy photographing the church. "
Chelsea," leave those pigeons alone!" the woman cries.
    Chippy inhales
New York. Sidewalk trembles through her boots.
    The man in front of her turns. "Do you have your tickets?"
    "Yes. Is this the line for that?"
    "I believe it is the line for everything. For what time are your tickets?"
    "Eleven."
    A smile creases the corners of his eyes. "Do you live here?"
    "No," she smiles. "But I love coming here in the fall."
    "Ah, yes. Where are you from?"
    "Everywhere.
Oregon. What about you?"
    "Everywhere. I fly for Swissair.  My home is near
Geneva. Have you been there?"
    The Swiss are so clean, Samantha said.
    "I've always wanted to go."
    "You should let me fly you there." He folds his hands together. "What do you do?"
    "I'm a writer.  I teach a little."
    The pilot turns toward the slow procession now ambling again up
53rd Street. Chippy stares at the soft, creased leather of his flight jacket, his thick white hair. I am waiting for my husband. Henry. Henry, my husband, I suppose I should say—
    The line stops. He turns back. "Have you read St. Exupery?"
    Chippy blinks.
    "Antoine de St. Exupery. The Little Prince."
    Her hand flies up. "Wind, Sand and Stars! "'Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.' Something like that. I copied it on the back of a postcard of La danse." She smiles apologetically. "I'm sorry, my French is not good."
    "Oh, it is fine," he says. "Have you seen La danse?"
    "The one here," says Chippy. "Three times."
    "They are both here today. Such a thing may never happen again."
    She nods.
    "I have not learned your name," he says.
    "Chippy."
    He laughs. "I imagined a legendary name. Alcestis. Penelope. Desdemona."
    "Desdemona!" she cries.
    He hands her a small leather book. "May I have your address?"
    The pen hangs motionless from her hand. Then quickly she writes, "Chippy
Bowles," and all the rest.
    "
Purewater Bay," he reads. "How clean it sounds."

         

    She cranes her neck to see between the heads. The woman's nose is green.
    In the world of NO GREEN NOSE, is a rule: NO GREEN NOSES.
    He left the world of NO GREEN NOSE.
    Created the world of GREEN NOSE.
    And God saw that GREEN NOSE was . . .
    "A dream," she says, and steps between the heads.
    He steps with her. "That you have had?"
    "No."
    "Ah," says the pilot, touching her arm: Ces nymphes, je les veux perpetuer.
                                                                    Si clair,
                            Leur incarnat leger, qu'il voltige dans l'air
                            Assoupi de sommeils touffus.
                                                                    Aimai-je un reve?"
    She beams.
    "You understand?" he asks.
    "No."
    But the music, rising, floating, ash into the whole-toned air where they are; where is that?  No such place, and yet I know of such a—
    "There you are!"
    Suddenly her feet, her calves, her simple breasts, weight again, sagging to the pale color of . . .
    "Look," she says.  "Le bonheur de vivre."
    "Prelapsarian," says Henry. "Or an orgy. A lot like an orgy."
    "Did you see The Green Line?"
    "The quintessence of Fauvism."
    "Oh my," she says.
    Henry fades into the colorless thick of heads and backs, heads and backs . . .
    "Pentimento," says the pilot. "The artist repented."
    She turns. "Of what."
    A tall, wide woman steps in front of her. Crimson wedges glow between the heads.
    "Blue," he says.
    Backs and heads, backs and heads.
    She goes up on her tiptoes.
    "Here." The gentle pressure of his hand guides her into a parting of people. She gasps.
    His fingers rest lightly on her back. "Matisse could have stayed with blue. It would have been a fine work. But you might not have gasped."
    "I suppose not everything need make one gasp."
    "No. But how wonderful when something does."
    She turns to answer. But he has slipped away.
    The most beautiful painting in the world.
    Now look, and look, and look, and . . .
    Suddenly at a moment not unlike any other,
    Simply smile and bow and move on to the next work.
    Stepping into a clearing between shoulders, she waits for the blue painting to tell me . . . It presses forward from the wall. She leans back till she feels herself teetering, barely hanging on.
    "Preparing for the dance," says the man in the yellow tie.
    "Ah, of course," answers his lady.
    These people know so much.
    But this one dull woman, room to room, window after window seeking the thing painted toward and around, the Here! We are Here! This is what it is.
 But only
    Moving Pieces:
    Five dancers flying round a hilltop.
    But it shall not be so with you.
        Music sits alone.
    The one who is great among you shall be having a hard conversation in his
pajamas.
        While the handless clock chimes.
        The apples turn.
        The one-eyed boy plays a sharp piano.
    Windows open.
    Dreamers dream.
    Many faces and many breasts:
        But few there be that find them.
    The spirit is color, and the flesh is . . .
        Among us.
        Full of grace
        And arabesques.
    With viewers behind, and viewers ahead, she comes alone and stunned with seeing, to a cool, dim place.
    But what?
    She yawns and rubs her eyes and yawns and stretches her arms and passes through into the high, bright room.
    Vermilion, magenta, purple, cobalt, green, orange, black, and turquoise, and colors Chippy had not imagined together, and colors she can't name, ring down the light like trumpets in a cathedral.
    "It looks like the beginning," says the pilot.
    And something in her going up, and up.


                   © D. M. Norsworthy 2002