I Can Barely Stand To

I Can Barely Stand To


today at the Louvre I took students
to see Venus de Milo
with her pert exquisite breasts
& read them Emma Lazarus’
poem to grief-struck Heinrich Heine
we talked ekphrastic this & that
but it was a marriage of convenience
for me Emma Heinrich & Venus

later I dragged my sons to L’Orangerie
to see how Monet at Giverny
painted his way through World War I
I imagined my father’s father
(circa 1934) feather in hat & my father’s
mother small & prim almost
hear them whispering in Yiddish
my grandmother understanding
the paintings my grandfather trying to

Up close they make no sense
my son said pointing to the paintings

my grandparents died half my lifetime
ago & the missing—

knife? corset? sting?

what metaphor suffices?

I would make myself into
a lapis lazuli that could be
into the trees water lily pads sky
but désoléé cannot

now at le Jardin a child sobs his way
around the carousel & another cries
because he is too young to ride
my youngest son shouts nonsense
in a French accent at children who pay him
no attention the mothers in their jolis hats
laugh & touch each other on the elbows
while the operator in the smoke-filled booth
cares only that the tickets are in order
I watch the ride go on & on
knowing it will stop

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