De Montmartre à Montparnasse

by Sue Kay
Pen Shells
First Place, June 2015
Judged by Lesley Wheeler


When I arrived at the Gare de Lyon in October 1906, I had 50 francs to my name, knew nobody and barely spoke French.
–Gino Severini

Being what I am, my solitude acknowledges
your own. I do not speak French. The pogroms
have sent their matte daubs to canvases like refugees
in grey north light, Archipenko, Lipchitz, Survage,
Chagall, Soutine. The smell of maroger medium
like sex, toxic but flexible enough for the rough trade

of art. What dusty harlequin pirouettes in the dream
beneath the dome of Sacré Coeur when it is dark
and all strangers belong to its shadow? The point
of paint is to illuminate and all the ladies in green
grow light with the unease of being known.
Age has its own idiom which does not translate

into the language of fashion. The last word on attitude
drapes flesh with inflection, folds the nude into a question.


Evocative specificity grounds this irregular sonnet in an interesting time and place. Details such as the "grey north light" and toxic "maroger medium" build a world, adding heft to the spill of lovely phrases in the last few lines. --Lesley Wheeler

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