Chris Tysh

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.