J. NOVALIS WOLFE | Two Poems
Avignon Apartment: Inside a Foreigner
Dear little room, / You may be small, but what memories you hold! Frederic Mistral
As soon as waiting was for something, one was waiting a little less.
Twenty pealing bells crash into the atmosphere of my little room.
Outside welling upward, staccato of mopeds, prattle of cobblestone,
some old men playing pétanque—throats thick with Occitan. Standing
above me across the narrow street, a manqué of John the Baptist: his
sculpted relic detached as it were; while served upon his same balcony,
slopped against faded shutters (as well my poor Baptist) bits of orange
rind, pizza sauce, a desideratum of baguette. Lying vis-à-vis my window
(tiny stone room) a chocolate shop, and, separate, hanging from a narrow
corridor, unceremonious, the blasted sign of a two-star hotel. Inside then,
this tortuous atmosphere rests unreserved a space—at once medieval past/
present. For waiting here is but memory (and who will not share that?).
Even those damned plastic shopping bags caught on cold stubs of pollarded
plane remind one of Mistral, your inscription: this, a cool infinity inside
us all; this, a cerulean beauty of limpid Provençal sky. Nothing can detract
from what has opened. Nothing can replace what is already given.
Peeling from its own center self,
the red barn stands indifferent
beside an open sky equal to that task.
Bois d’Arc trees holding up heavy,
almost without assurance; their limbs
forsake a green aggregate fruit—unfit
for you or me. One begins to drop, and then
another, until each thud syncopates an
undisturbed rhythm of silence.
This is a scene of Texas landscape,
unfolding its promise of prairie life
where rough going and basic need contend.
An image of pastured trees encloses
the barn, a simple reflection gathered inside
its silver corrugation of roof and sky while
the aggravating buzz of flies and locusts
commingle with lowing of distant cattle—all near
and far. They meld as though to betoken something
of immanent closure. But when will rain come?
Nascent it seems since last spring, a faint
breeze stirs up and fills our vacuum moment.
(And so, I can hear Bob calling us home…)
I notice too, painted on the blasted wall
in sharp relief, some bright escutcheon of place:
that certain presence of rural truth.
Trained in landscape architecture as well as English, the poet considers himself a stranger focusing on place and place experience. An “existential outsider,” one might say, interested in matters of perception and imagination—usually vis-à-vis nature. Poems are crafted with attention to strong lyrical sound using conventional rhyme and meter, but sometimes blank or free-verse style. They often reveal subtle philosophical questions and expression of place concern, sometimes imbued with skepticism, but just as often speculation.