Saturday, January 19, 2013

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Twenty-Five

Midnight slipped into the new day as Mélisande Bramante set her alarm o'clock for 7:30 a.m. Clio, her seven year old orange tabby, stretched out on the end of the bed, her paws resting on the cd case of Plans by Death Cab for Cutie.

Mélisande adjusted her earbuds. snuggled under the covers, and smoothed out a fresh page of her journal. Clio opened and closed her eyes content that she was finally settling down.

Tuesday, October 22nd, 12:02 a.m.
I had planned a quiet night at home; so much for best laid plans.

Today was like a C major triad: first the arrival of Pavor's book of poetry (Alacrity and Karma on a Yacht off Palmyra!) arrived in the mail, then the husband of Amelia dropped by with a Latin text for me to decipher, followed on his heels by Jerome who was in a state of longing and uncertainty. Where did I read that three occurrences are considered lucky? I suggested to Jerome we talk over dinner. He picked me up after work in his little car. I suggested we go to Mnemosyne for a meal. Monday would be quiet. I like their booths and the vegetarian food has only improved. Butternut squash pasta dish was very good. Stuffed. Drank far too much wine.

Pavor's new book was a surprise. Personal to the point of embarrassment. His dedication to me quotes Giordano Bruno which is perhaps typical of him. Seems he has used our walks about Montreal to frame a number of poems. I seem to be his guide!

He sent a copy to Jerome as well. Who else? We talked about the book over dinner. Jerome has only read one poem. The obscurity of the publisher, Oxtoby & Snoad based in England, was a relief. I hope the print run was small.

Jerome said he was sure Pavor was not running away from me, but only from the religious trappings of marriage. Pavor's Catholic upbringing has driven him away from the concepts of sacred ritual. Such is Jerome's opinion. Pavor's Mother was Catholic, from Prague, and his Father Anglican, from Montreal.  I agreed with Jerome when we discussed the tug of war within Pavor's upbringing. A conflicted writer. How unique. 

I told him Pavor invited me to Italy. He said I should go. Just the thing. Maybe I could overcome his resistance and get married there in an ancient chapel, Venice, Florence or Trieste, if such a thing was possible. Jerome knows how to cheer me up, ever the romantic. 

We talked of Thérèse and her mysterious, though not unusual, departure. I heard from a mutual friend that she was seen in Edinburgh. I told Jerome. He was excited by the news. He asked me to pursue it and find out more. I promised. 

A day of demands.

His painting, he said, was passionless at the moment. He said he felt like he had been rowing long and hard, and now he was just resting on his oars. He is not happy with the painting he has been working on. He said he'll probably leave it unfinished and use the faces for another picture. He has been thinking of an Alma-Tadema painting he'd like to do: Sappho and Alcaeus. . He explained the painting to me and said he would modernize it by having the figures in modern dress and the writing on the marble would be modern graffiti. Irony has nothing to do with it he says. He loathes irony. Thérèse to be Sappho? I didn't ask.

I do love his painting of me. His reproduction of Marianne Stokes' Melisande without the interesting long sleeved blouse, but revealing my tattoos. It is always a topic of conversation when I have people over. Jerome said the Alma-Tadema would have to wait for he has a commission. A portrait. He said he wasn't sure whether to take it, though it would pay well. I told him to take it. He has to make a living.

When he drove me home, he thanked me for listening and for relieving his sense of dread. There was one of those awkward moments, the wine and emotions had swirled together and we kissed each other on the cheeks, embracing perhaps rather longer than usual. His cheeks slightly rough and smelling of almonds. 

I made some chamomile tea and tried to read Wilkie Collins' Armadale. Didn't get very far. Took a bath and listened to music. Clio being affectionate.

I haven't had a chance to look at the Latin text that Duncan dropped off. I left it at work in the laptop bag. Will try to give it some time tomorrow if there is a slow moment. Duncan is his gentleman self, and he still looks youthful for his age. If he wasn't married.... Haven't seen Amelia in months. Should try to connect.

Palmyra. When I first read Pavor's title, I thought of Lady Hestor Stanhope. Shipwrecked and forever changed, tamquam tabulata naufragii. Or was her trajectory formed in the luxury of her past? That early political background and the loss of her future husband? I dipped into her Life and Letters which Duncan had sold me a few years ago. I reread that letter from 1813 that opens: “Dear Wynn, --Without joking, I have been crowned Queen of the Desert under the triumphal arch at Palmyra!” Not a sentence likely to be repeated again. Pavor knows I was interested in Stanhope and have this book. I wonder if he is playing with this? But a 'yacht off Palmyra?' Perhaps if and when I continue reading his book, it will become apparent. Stanhope died so alone. From a wealthy elite family at the top of the social scale in England, to a deserted fort in the desert, alone, all possessions taken. Could she have foreseen? 

Clio rose and arched her back before stepping delicately towards Mélisande. She circled herself into a cozy nook beside her. A sign she was ready to sleep. Lights out please. Mélisande gave her a kiss, put her journal and music away and picked up Pavor's book off her bed side table. Opening it, she read the third poem:

And yet you guide me to this spot, this field-
Stone wall, whose gate—of horn or ivory--
Remains as those within, it does not yield.
What private consolations would I see
If only I could pass? What acts of patience?
What modes of self-reliant reticence?

In looking through the window in the wall
(Much like the horse that's blinkered on the street)
Its iron work as black as cannon ball,
I feel the rough-hewn history's latent heat,
So cold, so obsolete. I call his name,
'Dollier,' but no one hears my melodrame.

Unless the stones themselves absorb the sound,
Repositories of syllabic time.
The clock from 1701 goes round
To timelessness within. The minutes climb,
And fall. The ancient clock's for you and I
Yet few remark its face against the sky.

Well, fourteen minutes have elapsed. So much
For the regressus in infinitum.
Reality's no paradox to touch.
This circular volition and the hum
Of life turns round their tended turtle peace,
This seamless Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice.

She placed the book under the bed, and turned out the light. She rested her arm around Clio hoping she had left the day's troubles on the page. 

© ralph patrick mackay

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