ERIC THOMAS NORRIS
Eric Thomas Norris is the co-author (with Gavin Geoffrey Dillard) of Nocturnal Omissions.
He is also the author of the chapbooks Terence and Takaaki, and the book Cock Sucking
(On Mars). He is currently working on two new books: Michael Furey and Future Perfect,
a steampunk poetical reworking of H.G. Wells' Time Machine. He lives in Portlandia, USA.
My Semester Abroad
Do you mind if I steal a fry?
I can't believe you hated France.
Marie was a monster, I know, but I
Met Marcel there at a dance.
The lad was clad in the cutest suit
Created by God—pure Gaultier.
Nothing naughty, you know, or rude,
Just a smile and black beret.
He called me his 'little cabbage head,'
Although I was dressed as a sailor.
It was electric when we kissed,
Sur la Tour Eiffel—the elevator.
I was a student in Paris that spring,
Seeing how love and champagne
Affected American students.
My roommate threw up in the Seine,
Much to the merriment of Marcel.
"Americans are all the same:
So serious about your work."
Marcel imagined life was a game.
The touch of his tongue felt like a dream,
So I said I was going to stay.
I would cable Mom for the money,
In Manhattan, the following day.
The war was in its infancy
Then. The news from everywhere grim.
We listened to the BBC
And watched the City of Lights grow dim.
The elevator halted. We
Poked our noses through the cage:
Not even night was visible.
Nothing. Rien. Marcel's visage
Pleaded with me to spend a week
Together on the Côte d'Azur,
Sipping sangria, and skipping classes.
He knew a Hôtel, very secure—
Le Mirage, I think. It was pink—
About a stone's throw from the beach—
Across the street—the Rue de la Paix,
Or la Rue. Perhaps the porch was peach…
All I recall is that Tower.
Marcel moaning in my embrace.
When Hitler restored the power,
I wiped Marcel from my face.
Friday Night at the Met
For John Stahle
Having had my fill of garbage for the evening—I did not enjoy the special exhibition of turquoise dinosaur turds praised as "Monumental" by Time Out—I decided to take the escalator down and spend a few minutes among the clichés housed in the recently renovated collection of classical bric-a-Braque, to see what I could see. In those days, I carried a black Moleskine everywhere I went and I recorded everything I saw. I clutched my pen with the white-knuckled determination of a thief gripping the steering wheel of a Porsche: I would not leave the world empty-handed. I really had no idea what I was doing, of course, besides scribbling: joyriding from place to place, face to face, world to word, wasting time; hoping, in the course of my travels, I would unearth a reason to exist—something, if not exactly noteworthy, or new, at least something more diverting than doing endless donuts around Death in the vegetable aisle at the supermarket.
So, I discovered myself on the ground floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. Inside that vast glass-vaulted gallery, I found a garden of broken images that—taken together and carefully weighed—amounted to less than a worm in terms of its collective artistry, but nevertheless evoked something stubbornly human, even beautiful. I dipped my fingers in a purling fountain and flicked water at Poseidon. I flipped the bird at Julius Caesar. I peeped around the shattered ass of a faceless Nike. I whistled at what I saw: basking under a beam of light bespangled with billions of starry motes that suggested this section of the Cosmos was still, secretly, under construction—I spied the alabaster corpse of a laughing Cupid impaled on an iron spike. I saw a legless young man in a wheelchair sketching that sculpture with excruciating care.
You changed my life.
I and Thou
Now that we have worked THAT out of our system.
Now that I have scalded my bum washing off the grease.
Now that I have dressed in jeans, undressed, and dressed again, more satisfied with my drab, easy access camouflage pants.
Now that you've given up lying in bed, trying to sleep, and joined me on the couch, where I lazily muse about ingenious ways to murder you for sleeping around, for stealing my socks, for having a small goatee like Christ, and long dirty blond hair that might be twisted into an excellent noose.
Now that I've smoked my last cigarette.
Now that I have tossed the remote aside, leaned over and kissed your naked knee and said, "The weather is nice. Let's get the Hell out of here."
Now that we've crossed Broadway, Amsterdam, and Columbus, unmindful of the signals or the volume of traffic heading toward the Hudson.
We find that it is raining nothing but sunshine in Central Park, and has been, since lunch.
We find that Nobody is waving who isn't a blade of grass, and Nobody is drowning who isn't some kind of bottom-feeding carp.
We hear a twig snap like a celery stalk fresh from the crisper.
I notice that you have finished your joint and have tucked the remains into an Altoid tin, and found a crag of granite in Manhattan on which to perch and survey the glories of Creation.
This is where I sneak up behind you and ping you with a piece of Reality that I pocketed on the Bridle Path, unbeknownst to you.
This is where squirrels with nuts in their hands look up in astonishment at the rocks as a war of pebbles erupts between two boys.
And Nobody gets seriously hurt.
I was already in the U.S.
When a grove of green bamboo swept in.
The slender leaves caught the rain
And splattered the sky across
The windows of the Express
Bound for Narita Airport,
My point of embarkation.
We crossed a bridge. The waters below—
I forget the name—Lethe, Styx, whatever
They call this river in Japan—
Welcomed the precipitation:
An electric blue that emptied into
Something greater. What it was—
This greater thing the water promised—
The ocean or oblivion—
I couldn't tell. I wasn't there.
My eyes were far too busy elsewhere,
Transfixed with tears. You again:
The chimney of an old-fashioned
Crematorium, thin and sad,
Smoking in the distance.
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