blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



L'Heure Bleue

   (reprinted by permission of Southern Illinois University Press; "L'Heure Bleue" previously
    appeared in
Prairie Schooner)

Pigeons furl the silk of their oilslick
   wings and doze on the limed shoulders
      of forgotton generals, while the last

commuters descend to the subways,
   where they'll sway above their papers,
      reflections streaming through the rapid

dark. Christened bleue by the French,
   this is the hour when evening raises
      its azure wand and the light smolders,

cool center of a candle flame,
   the five ring on an archer's target,
      a few stars the silvery nibs of arrows

just breaking through. Slender boys
   in waiters' tuxes snap starched linens
      over tables for two, as cabbies scour

backseats clean of the day's real
   detrius, and one by one, all over
      the city, vapor lamps spread their sodium

veils like some fast-traveling rumor,
   gild the drowsing streets, graffitied
      buildings, until even the harbor, the river

freighted with sludge, even the smoke-
   stacks percolating a foul snow of ash
      and grit over the Jersey Palisades,

have gone soft-focus, the whole town
   a Chamber of Commerce photo or moony
      perfume ad. Prelude to the strict black

of night, this is the moment we may
   imagine the hiss of nylon, the garter
      a woman slides, high on her leg,

for a man dressing, even now, in his best
   suit, when we find ourselves humming
      Gershwin tunes, thinking romance,

possibility—of glamour we know better
   than by day. Which is why the woman
      lingers, her heart beating like a bird's

does, too quickly, why the man hesitates
   beneath her window, his face chiaroscuro
      in blue shadow, a square of light.  

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