Antarctica Starts Here

John Cale (performed by Okkervil River)

 

We never spoke

though I’m sure we met,

late winter light

frosting her strangely

brown hair (wrapped close

in Hermès, the only

concession to disguise).

She held with two fingers

her white Chanel

sunglasses, lifting them

now and then to chew

softly on an arm,

staring hard at

Bathers by a River.

Anyone could see

it was her, though

no one else did.

We loved the same

paintings I like to think,

O’Keefe’s Sky Above Clouds,

Nighthawks, of course,

and we took the same

time in each gallery.

After a few hours she

turned and nodded

thanks, and left—

no entourage or

bodyguard, no one

even to carry the bag

of books she bought

in the gift shop.

Did I volunteer

to help? Did I say,

in passing, as I held

the door open to

Michigan Avenue

with one hand, the bag

of books in the other,

that if I were given just

one meal and one

movie to end

my last day on earth,

I would go hungry and ask

for both Belle du Jour

and Le Dernier Métro?

I watched her

walk away beneath

the “lights that reach

from Barbary to here”

and felt the air return

to normal in my lungs,

though for hours

I smelled her perfume

in my shirt whenever

I lifted a sleeve

to my face, her own

perfume as it turned out:

she was in town

to debut Deneuve,

“a fragrance as chic

as its namesake”

I read in the Tribune

the next day, alongside

a note in the gossip column:

“Two hundred roses

delivered to Catherine

Deneuve’s suite

at the Drake.” But

I knew that.

About James Harms:

James Harms is the author of seven books of poetry including Comet Scar, to be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2011. He is a recipient of an nea fellowship, the pen/Revson fellowship, and three Pushcart Prizes, among other honors. A Professor of English at West Virginia University, he also directs the low-residency mfa program in poetry at New England College.