Paris Views
Gargoyles

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THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A GARGOYLE

             I was of three minds,
             Like a tree
             In which there are three blackbirds.
                          Wallace Stevens

I.
I was exalted
 and confused,
Like a tower
Crowded with gargoyles.

II.
Uncle Gargoyle broods:

His nephew, the Thinker,
Hit the big time
With Rodin.

III.
Perched gargoyles,
 my thoughts
Caricature the commonplace,
But enjoy noble views.



IV.
Tourists but recently
Turned to stone
Lean from the corners
Of Notre Dame,

As gargoyles gather
About their guide
And head downstairs
To the empty bus....

V.
While all his schoolmates
Ate up the angels,
Hungry for haloes
And luminous wings,

He held his cheeks in
And wrinkled his forehead
With a glare of admiration
For the gargoyle.

VI.
"Our Lady and the Gargoyles"
 appear tonight,
With slightly distorted bells
And a solar organ.

The voice of the lead castrato
Is fed through a hollow
 marble cross,
As his back-up group
Upon their towers
Stares stonily 
 into the distance.

Come with me,
And sit with me,
And consider ancient glories,
As we climb chromatically
Up the edifice
They form with their heightened voices.

VII.
When you are old and grey
And fall asleep,
Groggy upon your park bench,

Sit up 
With a brown paper bag

And throw handfuls of comprehension
To the dim gargoyles
Who peck disrespectfully
At your feet.


VIII.
Motorcycles took the street
 monuments
Gross with power

Topped by gargoyles
With stone eyes.

IX.
There is no gargoyle
Sits over the Seine
So patient
As she who soothes me.

She weaves her attention
Outside the tower
Where, bent, I ring my dreams.

X.
In winter, the snowmen grin
 with teeth of coal
At the gargoyle.

In spring, the gargoyle's stare
 follows sunlight
To an empty square.



XI.
If Notre Dame were a firetruck
 racing through the boulevards
Do you really think you'd notice
On that seat at the back of the ladder
The smirk of the gargoyle
In his long red hat?

XII.
My love seeks to budge me,
But I sit here stupid,
Though I used to be
Such a brisk young Cupid.

I wasn't quite fire,
But at least I could boil.
Now I'm sullen, alone,
A stony gargoyle.




XIII.
He bloomed so, at seventeen,
He seemed a saint.

Then they sent him into the Army,
Where he met the devils
He'd seen on walls
In museums and church.

They beat him up, and it hurt.

He came back, shrivelled,
To sit at a desk
At the end of a hall,

Having made the grade

Of gargoyle.


          

copyright 1983, James B. Chevallier

LAST UPDATED:January 2000

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