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Sapphire

by Patricia Spears Jones


I swore to a friend that yes, you can live on martinis and
         chocolate!
Dark chocolate, real chocolate, slightly bitter and lovely to
         smell.

And it helps to have a working knowledge of languages other
         than English,
French, perhaps German or Spanish.
This will serve you well from Brussels to Cracow.

Entertain your learned hosts. Toss in expertise, opinion and
         artful snobbery.
Baraka and Yeats, poetry, theater, cultural inquiry, any good
         reason to party.
Well, party on. What a swank notion, the Black sophisticate
with a working knowledge of Celtic mythology and hoodoo,
         shouts and blues.

Sophisticated lady. Walking this tensile rope that swings between
         pocketbook and fantasy.
This side Paradise. That side bankruptcy.
Who cares if the woods are scary, dark and deep?
German food is gray, white and green, the sausages brown.
Winter food. Winter people.

The Lenbachhaus is empty but for the curator, an interpreter and
         me. We walk at a pace
known only to museum workers—respectful, professional, with
         time enough for the surprise,
the find, a reverent glance. There is danger here and dedication.

Franz Marc’s fantastic horses swirling reds, yellows, an
         impossible purplish blue.
Read birth dates and death notices. World War I—destroyer of
         artists.

There is our heroine. The girlfriend or wife who will not
         sacrifice
one measure of her talent even as her beloved recoils
from his promise of a perfect union made in art.

Left at the train station, in an airport, on the side of the road,
women have always been wise to scrap and savvy composing
canvasses of prodigious color and luminosity. It is not always

night in our soul of souls. Just a weak ache for what could have
been.
We were raised to recognize the brute’s soft smile and the
         trickster’s violent craft, but
not the tender one’s evolving desire, his roving eye, his voice
         crashing against our tears.

Who is to blame? The ideal of it all. Gabrielle Münter stopped
         not once the making of
her art. How could she, when her lover stopped not the making
         of his, only his love for her.

Blue, blue, blue rider. Blaue Reiter See what you have left
         behind.
Paintings dance and marvel, assume aspects of magic, prophecy,
         precision and dread.
Iron works forged a martial steel. Gunpowder, dynamite,
         munitions, munificence.

And yes, she hid from the Nationalist Socialists remnants of
         pre-war experiements
essaying the values of colors, shapes, the artists’ place beneath
         the dismal stars to come.

This is how the story spends itself, late twentieth century on
         the wide
boulevards of great European cities where the dust and trouble
of war and revival stratify the effortless rebuilding.

A plaque in the plaza marking a speech, a battle, the death of
         one great man
or a tribe’s lonely disaster. Rings of fire or rings of gold.
Sooner or later a story unfolds.

What matters is that I could be there, three days before Palm
         Sunday, 1989
eyeing the elaborate chocolate rabbits in the window of a
         Munich confectioner.

The sweet hare’s fabled face-whiskers shiver in the icy breeze of
         air conditioning.
His ears proportioned, listening for our appreciation.

You really want panic? Think of the choclateer’s skill.
How for every perfect bunny in the window,
hundreds lie in pieces awaiting his children’s ready mouths.

Ah, the kids get the damaged goods for that is the way of the
         world.
And they lick the brutalized ears with much joy.

 

Patricia Spears Jones is an African-American poet, playwright and arts administrator. The Weather That Kills (Coffee House Press, 1995) is her first full-length book. Mabou Mines produced her play, Mother, with music by Carter Burwell in 1994. (1999)


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