Chestnut Tree, Jardin des Tuileries

What sparrows come,
come briefly, briefly displacing
the nothingness.

Forgive me, they zeroed in,
landing impossibly, they ruffled
and pecked . . .

When they left,
when the tree is negated, I try
to love it no less,

remembering the imperial one
riding its uppermost limb,
a Napoleon.

This is the antidepressant.
What force dismissed the flock
as mysterious

as imagination, the tree entirely
symbolic now, the birds as
well, that fell and fell.


Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

Where gowns dizzied and whispered
and official footfalls diminished is my mother,
wet-eyed with cold. Schoolchildren
hold hands, in pairs, as they will not again.
Her own, how they suffered,
were sentenced, and she, she was ignorant,
mirrored, imperfect, spectacular.
Chandeliered, she looks at me through tears.

Stripped in woods, where birds sang
in spectral blue and carriage guards looked on.
Naked at the border. Reborn,
she is dressed in French clothing. White-
haired, in prison, wed to incomprehension.
She carried out the life she was given.


Photograph © Gillie Rhodes

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