190.1: Chris Tysh:: from Ravished 190

As I write this introduction on yet another hot day in Southern California, the windows to my apartment are open. I hear the roaring of a neighbor's air-conditioning unit, the squeal of an accidentally-deployed car alarm, a distant voice on a loudspeaker talking about...what is that voice talking about, exactly? "Too much sense mars the writing," Chris Tysh reminds us in this selection, which takes as its source text Marguerite Duras' Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein. In a series of couplet stanzas, the poet cleaves to sense-impressions, at once holding onto a tennis court in August, for instance, and yet also pushing against tactility as a representation of anything but what has been or can be lost: "the heart / will come later        surely". This deferment of ultimate sense, of anything quite like resolution, certainly infuses Tysh's selection with melancholy. But there is also humor here, and it poignantly situates the poet and her audience in reflection: "The way I tell Lola's story, unreliable narrator / that I am, though my name seems to hold // the old gate standing in for the facts / won't be once upon a time". Surrounded by sounds, my writing marred, I know that whatever words I divine from that loudspeaker will most assuredly come to be "like a sentence stenciled in the sky," no matter how trivial they might initially seem. Ryan Winet

from Ravished1



I. Like a sentence stenciled in the sky


I see them dancing in the empty study hall
to an old radio show                    windows



wide open        street sounds streaming in
blurred like a wet postcard on the asphalt



But what do I know?
Too much sense mars the writing



hollow space in my head
never heard a thing about her childhood



worth noting not even from Tatiana
It must be summer I’m only tracing



the faintest of lines a tennis court
at the end of August



stretches the minutes
before the grand dance is announced



you’ll have to picture Town
Beach             almond cake casino



and a marriage proposal
maybe not exactly in that order



the right to error is a given here
Lola’s parents consent



as per the old scroll
where sex and gender



wear the same robe
Michael Richardson’s name chiseled



in even strokes       only child like a fossil track
we recognize at once



It’s not the famous ball that causes
the collapse Tatiana says with that pensive



moue she takes crossing her legs as if
we had all the time in the world



if you want to know she’s always
been like that even in school



never a tear     Pietà face     the heart
will come later                          surely



Yes it seems like a garden
not yet planted      that region



of feeling one reserves for another season
When the rumors start about her engagement



Tatiana wonders who on earth could clasp
Lola V. Stein in his arms when all say



she’s like water in one’s cupped palms
sent rolling down the stairs



I’m convinced of nothing
in the half-light of doubt



a waiting room a puddle
we circle around, wobble



then come to a stop as if
on the brink of a ravine



That’s how we’ll invent the railing
that led to an awful night



The way I tell Lol’s story, unreliable narrator
that I am, though my name seems to hold



the old gate standing in for the facts
won’t be once upon a time



first nineteen years
running through the square



sprocket holes that
the projector teeth grab onto



I’ll look for her just where I should
when she seems to move



as if in my direction
at the precise moment



two women step inside
the municipal casino



What to retain here save the scary
beauty Tatiana will have observed:



mouth         also height
aloft in the now emptying dance floor



Transfixed Lol watches there’s something
of a dead bird inside that black sheath



or maybe a slap she wears like a plunging neck-
line, a cormorant bordered by pale feathers



My story might begin here in that double layer
of tulle the fiancé suddenly much older



moves toward   as if following a script
for an alternate ending



“I must invite her to dance.”
The impulse so transparent so intense



they simply shiver at the peril
Already Lol loses her girlhood



smile          such agony
eyebrows knit ever so slightly



Anne-Marie Stretter finds herself
in his arms as evidence passes



from gaze to that naked space
on her shoulder     hand



caught in the acquiescent nod
of the first dance



It’s behind the bar
its tall greenery



she understands the odd
code that excludes her



The ballroom’s almost empty
and the couple strangely deaf



doesn’t notice the music has stopped
that someone hurls insults



It’s Lol’s mother turning up
all trembly tangle of arms



looking for the exit door
in the charlatan light



of this dawn grown murky
carapace: please it’s not that late



she yells to Michael Richardson
eyes on the ground they pass



before her, one after the other
like a sentence stenciled in the sky


1. Source text: Marguerite Duras. Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1964.