Thursday, July 7, 2011

From Maiquetia to Orly and Back

Waves of wild parrots screeched at dawn as common

as Europe’s sparrows will be tomorrow, I thought.

But remember our last night with you in my lap asleep so still

like Christ off the cross held by a sculpted  Mater Dolorosa.

The absurdity of the comparison did not escape my notice

even then, you my adulterous lover and I all of fifteen.

It is not clear that we will have another night such as this

I imbibe your sleeping presence through my cells, your breath

precious ether, I see the throb of your fine veins by candlelight

and imagine its music so even unlike my erratic rhythm.

I have already said my adieus to Avila, my mountain protector,

and at the beach stared at the Antillean sea so ink dark,

etching it in memory as I do your sleeping face silhouetted on

the wall across, now imagining the countenance of a fallen warrior.

I have packed and repacked my valises, left open for days

For all to see and argue about contents in the Russian fashion.

My Grandmother  surreptitiously puts edibles for the long journey.

She does not imagine I will be properly fed in Paris.

A silent battles ensues between us as would have

I suppose with my mother had she been still alive.

It is always like this I don’t know why we continue to engage…

But her body language as I kiss signals her victory and tired

of this game, I shrug, and run to  Maiquetia already late.

At one end of airport terminal stands my father and

at the other in temporary truce, my lover. As if they

had convened and negotiated terms of engagement

as generals did prior to an 18th century battle.

I flit from one to the other wearing each their gifts.

A watch from my father and a discreet ring from him.

The jet for France arrives and I anguish if I should flee again

with  my lover to Caracas. But not this time I say.

Paris awaits .  He whispers, you will forget me.

I plead that he should know I will not .

I don’t know what to offer as solace in my place.

I think of cutting off  my braid and offering it as pledge

But it seems an empty gesture, unseemly.

My father weeps openly, profusely, being a foreigner,

My grief a frozen river swells, not expressed in tears

And you so silent at the end, so restrained.

I waited for your letters and did in Paris what young girls did then

Attend L’Opera, Comedie Francaise, the Louvre, the Jeu de Paume.

Bought boots, glove, scarves, at Hermes in the Faubourg St Honore

as my mother had done, correct as young girls should I’m told

But then I ran away from boarding school stayed up until dawn

at the Gare St Lazaire.  I explained to the Consul my dream was

to attend the Sorbonne .I almost ran away again but compromised

settled in  what was a pension in Montparnasse,14 Rue de Stanislas.

Met old ladies in cafes  that had been models for

Modigliani and Matisse and  more recently Soutine.

Foreign painters took over my aesthetic education, became briefly a model,

You stopped writing the letters that nurtured me. I waited in my hotel

day by day for the four-thirty Poste but nothing came in four whole months.

Do you know what an eternity four months is when you’re fifteen?

Then on my birthday you sent a bouquet of yellow roses. Yellow? I asked.

Finally I tired of your silence. met a young writer who as sole prerequisite

had to be as different from you as possible. We lived in free apartments of a countess, Santis and would have to move in a days notice, a lark really.

Then you threatened to come but I fled Paris for Barcelona and then Ibiza

But you managed to find me there and as pretext asked me to translate

an obscure poem  you’d lent me. I understood the theme of the poem was

a barely diffuse threat to my new lover. Went back quietly to Paris but there

was not a day or an hour that my thoughts were not with you.

A year passed and I planned my return to Venezuela

to settle various family matters and was myself carrying

a child that should  have been yours.

Again in Maiquetia as I glanced at the welcoming crowd

I saw a figure briefly, dressed in sailing whites, and knew it to be you.

I braced myself for our encounter and it came soon enough

that very evening you led me to everyplace we met for our

clandestine trysts and even the very spot where one night

I saw a reflection in your windshield which I mistook for

a constellation of stars to your continual amusement.

You entreated and offered to be a father to the child.

I was not moved. The child had to be taken to the father I said.

It was a simple as law. It was written thus in my code as was

later when I left the father to surrender to him my sons.

Yet I did not return to you then because you thought that I would

not surmount the pain. You were right. I did not. I became what

I am today, someone who has walked through fire and back.

It is late in the day for these cogitations, but here I am still.

                                                                                                                                                                                       Antonia Baranov


  1. There is so much to admire in this poem, but your English often leaves me confused ;) I had no idea which man I was confronted with at which point, and some of the references are opaque.

    Nevertheless, as I said, the poem contains much to admire and much to reflect on. x

  2. Very tender & touching work. Yes use of English combined with length of the work do cause little impediment but core beauty prevails. Lovely work indeed

  3. Very tender & touching work. Yes use of English combined with length of the work do cause little impediment but core beauty prevails. Lovely work indeed

  4. It was my life at fifteen, my awkwardness in English meant to convey that I was still a foreigner?Dobly so in Venezuela as well though there no accent in Spanish less so?