November 1999

Catherine Savage Brosman

Catharine Savage Brosman Catherine Savage Brosman, who recently retired as Gore Professor of French at Tulane University, is the author or editor of fifteen volumes in French literary history and criticism, four collections of verse, and one volume of non-fiction prose. Her newest collection of poetry, Places in Mind, will be published by LSU Press in the spring of 2000.

Near Four Corners    Click to hear in real audio

Little here to think around but space—such space
that waves of mesas, one behind the other, merely
ruffle it along the edges, with the canyons carving
out more emptiness, and miles of dizzying, azure
sky beyond the thunderheads. It stretches to pure
possibility, a fullness in reverse, as if God wished
for being to behold its opposite. This was a place

for others, once, with different gods. Their bodies
sandstone red beside the black basalt of the Flying
Rock, they wound themselves into the coiling clay
of pottery and drew their faces in the earth. Across
the rippled world, their roads ran out from Chaco
in a wheel, chaining washes to the northern ranges
and the mountains of the Mogollon. Bearing leafy

news like birds, runners came to trade at Chevelon
and Chimney Rock, where the moon was captured
standing still between two pinnacles; circling back,
they carried copper bells or turquoise, or the timber
to complete a distant room. The binding language
was community, as in the darkness of the kiva rites,
where each man saw the other's shadow on the wall,

and dreamt their ancestors. Their memory radiates
and lights the wilderness; a reeded music whistles
past the willowed sandbars of the San Juan River,
while two silhouettes appear below the petroglyphs,
then move along the cliffs among the piñon pines
and climb as on the feet of prophets up the ancient
slickrock path, announcing signs, running to the sun.



Soho at Night    Click to hear in real audio

Well, it certainly was a mistake, taking
this shortcut from the Coliseum Theatre,
which turned out to be long,
and cut in the wrong direction—
and with Centre Point, despite its presumed
median and neat emplacement,
dancing around me or running away,
I am lost, thoroughly lost. No bobby,

and I cannot ask a man—he might get
the wrong idea; as for the women,
mostly girls, they look as though
they don't know much besides fashion and sex,
and would scarcely understand
the Queen's English, still less
an ersatz from New Orleans. It is black
along these narrow alleyways,

and the pleasure dens whose neon winks at me
disgorge wild beasts. Wanted
desire is one thing, unwanted
another. This reminds me
of the whole question of men, although
I have not come to London to resolve
it, surely. Young ones are too young,
the old too old; and I am still

a bit Victorian, like that lamppost
emerging from the shadow. I'd do well
here to be nimble—ho!—stepping
over that streetsleeper, past a crowd
of singsong Orientals, through
a throng of knights-errant in tight leather
trousers, and overtaking a strange pair
composed—as it turns out—

of two earringed men. Could that be
Leicester Square, lost half an hour
ago? At least I know my way
now, in so far as I know anything in London—
and in life—and I've got feet, thank God.
Back along the road of Charing Cross,
which Edward raised for his chère reine,
to Bloomsbury, a nightcap,

closed eyelids, and the double darkness
of a stage where figures pass,
crepuscular, like Orpheus
who sought Eurydice again tonight among
the shades, the music fading
and the backdrop where the lights
had played dissolving in obscurity
within the deep and voiceless cave.



Catherine Savage Brosman: Poetry
Copyright © 1999 The Cortland Review Issue NineThe Cortland Review