Smug in the sun the lovers stand. What tough tumble upstairs behind those grimy curtains drives them to such…such…? Joy? Ah, this one could be different. L’amour! Yes, she wishes, yes this could be different. And this time not the usual for sure not the usual by half.
He lingers, the merest distance, cigarette in hand,smoke curling lewdly about that thick peasant wrist, (Regard!) that hint of grin, the look up the street. He knows her beyond this now, this day, this sun-flooded brilliant morning. Yes, he must love her. Yes, he must-- Too happy she otherwise. (Pardon! What did he just say?) That he will return. From La Gare Saint Lazare, he will return. The war be damned, so it seems. Regiment be damned! (Oh, this is a good one! The light so fine.) La Somme be damned! Yes, he will return, it seems plain. (Chatty now, these two. Perfection, that angle.) To be with his sparrow. La Petite. He stands so boldly tall against the ravaged frame, the door ajar, so bold in brown, his rumpled tunic, the puteed shins, that hinting smile, the shy look away... Up the street, up the street, up the street… (Or is it sly?)
She, caught by the door in her morning muss. Trapped dead by… Ha-ha. I see… That Atget homme. His lethal box, the treacherous eye, the precipitous tripod. Likes to snap the poules, he does. (Bien sûr, we all must work our art, mademoiselle.) No poule now, Un poulet. His poulet. Atget, be damned! she smiles squinting, the slate roofs fracturing the sunlight. All around, she smiles (Mon Dieu!) at the puddled street,at the five years upstairs, smiles at the feverish nights punctuated by knocks and cracks and vinous gasps, tobacco reek, “Ah, madamoiselle, mon petit chou,” barbarous beards, the discoloring hands that grope and chafe and linger. All that, she flings up with a laugh that wanes, suddenly a bit off. That cloud passing…but he will return from the Gare Saint Lazare. To be with her. There are things only a poule knows for sure, for sure. (Fading now, more aperture…) She trembles, caught, her knees in shadow, in darkening tangling cobbles’ mire. She reaches for him to gain repose, or life or death or hideous perfection... Click! As Atget’s shutter-bulb expires.
James Ryan Inkwell, (Manhattanville College) Spring 2001