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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.

Maurice Blanchot

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.


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