Friday, August 21, 2015

The apartment

A large apartment on the Rue des ____
my entrance uncertain,
   reflecting unease:
   what am I here
   why did this woman
I do not know have never met
leave me this apartment
in her will no one can say will say
not even her attorney
   with the waxed moustache
   he shrugs, merely,
   like only the French do

I’ve only been to Paris once

The rooms are large, or seem large,
tall ceilings like open skies
above shining boulevards.
Neighbors stand at the door
and watch, reluctant to accept
my invitation to enter.
A recluse, they say, she was
a recluse, most of us did not meet

The gift contained this instruction:
find the treasure

I stare at clutter, decades
of accumulation, love affairs
but no family, books in the French
I do not read or speak,
small watercolors and framed prints
of famous oils clutter the walls
as if she’d been afraid to allow
any open space to be seen

and dust

Too much furniture,
magazines and newspapers stacked
and measureable with yardsticks
or is it meter sticks in France

Two floors and a basement,
a basement opening to the walkway
along the Hugo-esque sewer, basement
walls enameled like deep blue cloisonné,
urn-like, as if the apartment was a bouquet
arranged in its funerary vase

a tiny, rather bare kitchen suggests
the lady dined out,

Each room replicates the pattern
of dust and clutter and too much
furniture, inundated with clutter,
strangled, clutter hiding whatever
treasure lies here; who could know

no television set or radio or computer
or even empty spaces where they]
would have been placed

A moment’s panic as I hear a mob
of young teenage girls, like wolves,
beating on the door, demanding
I imagine them with pink hair, black
leather jackets, gang-like, each with
knitting needles. They go away,

The party (the neighbors) finally arrive
with cheap wine, baguettes and cheese.
One brings grapes. They laugh
and smoke, the clutter offering
an infinity of ashtrays. Only the French
still smoke, I think, and perhaps the Turks.
Only one speaks English and translates
for me and the rest. Finally they leave,
first demanding a view of the basement
and its walls and its doorway to the sewer.
They heard stories, they say, but can’t
remember them

The clutter is overpowering
I walk to the full-length bedroom windows
pull back heavy curtains of equal parts
dust and brocade and it is on the balcony
I find the treasure:

the view 

Photograph: an apartment in Paris that was literally untouched for 70 years, by Paris Design Agenda.

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