The gypsy girl with the guitar never blinks
when Laszlo tells the band to play the Marseillaise—
“Play the Marseillaise!” he roars, and before
Rick can nod, she’s pounding out those chords
like bullets. I feel my eyes fill, pretend I have to
blow my nose. Allons enfants! the gypsy sings,
she belts it out, trombones and drums weighing in
to drown the drunken Nazis’ song.
What a hero, our Laszlo! See the stars
in Ilsa’s eyes, see the worn-out prostitutes,
the demure bride—all the women want to fuck him,
all their broken men would follow him
into battle just to feel like men again.
My daughter rolls her eyes. “You know, Dad,
the French were all collaborators.”
Merci, cherie. And probably the place stank
of unwashed bodies, cheap perfume, cigarettes
and desperation, and yes, I know I’m looking
at a movie set, I’m aware those are actors
playing refugees. Still: see how the song
transforms them, infuses them with hope,
yanks their sorry asses off their sorry barstools.
Palace of Fine Arts
for R. S.
Rennie, do you remember the swans?
how they emerged from the low-lying fog
and sailed toward us ceremoniously
that unhinged summer night of wandering
among the Roman ruins and the Greek rotunda,
all faux, all floodlit from below
so even the swirls of mist seemed contrived,
even my tears felt overdone. I told you I would die
without him. “Pah!” you said, and spat at the Evil Eye.
We stood in silence at the edge of the lagoon
and that’s when we saw the cloud of swans
gliding from their nests on the far bank
their broad chests serene atop the black water
their strong webbed feet churning out of sight
their heads in half-profile, the better to survey
what sort of creature had disturbed their rest.
I know you summoned them. I felt the night shift
and rehang itself on a far grander scale.
JO ANN BALDINGER writes poems and teaches yoga in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Stirring, The 2River View, Stickman Review, White Whale, Monarch Review, Cirque, Burningword, Verdad, and Blue Mesa.