Geneviève’s Version



[One afternoon, without warning and with only the lightest of knocks, Ms. Sans-Serif appeared in my office. From her small black bag she produced a tape machine, set it on my desk, and pressed Record. Perched on the windowsill she began to reminisce, only to cut herself off after five minutes. She stopped the tape, took the machine, and left. The following week I received a transcript of her statement, versified with minimal changes to the original. —Ed.]



The secret name
my family gave to me,
the streets from which we came,
how long I spied
and on which side
and in what war
(if it was even real)—
all this and more
I am at liberty
not to reveal.


As Garamond
found out. Unhappy man!
Of such frustration
who would not grow fond?
Bold captain without plan
still drifting on,
still adding all the globe,
nation by nation,
to his grand wardrobe
of accoutrements.


His pipe, you know.
A man who smokes to savor.
Prefers his suicide
scented and slow—
leans back, takes pains
to register the flavor
of each sun-dried,
lovingly chosen leaf…
Life is too brief!
I smoke in furious chains.


Our little jokes,
you know. Well, one could take
a stick of chalk
and with a few quick strokes,
some smiles, some clever talk,
prove how our break
occurred, show why it must
in every case,
boom-boom, erase
the board, wave off the dust—


and what would be solved then?
Some days, one tires
of men in the abstract,
of the loopholes that men
slip through, but not the way
a scent, or else
some private fact—
how do you say?—conspires,
that is, compels...
Perhaps, you do not say.




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