Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CHATEAU DE SOUPIR: 1917, by MALCOLM COWLEY



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CHATEAU DE SOUPIR: 1917, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Jean tells me that the senator
Last Line: A perforated pepper box.
Subject(s): Love; Paintings & Painters


JEAN tells me that the Senator
came here to see his mistresses.
As master and proprietor
the servants ushered him — Jean says —
past bogus Flemish tapestries
velvets and mahoganies
to where the odalisque was set
the temporary queen, Odette.

An eighteenth-century chateau
rebuilt to suit the modern taste
painted and gilt fortissimo
where Germans grown satirical
constructed a machine-gun nest
underneath the banquet hall.

Their trenches run diagonally
across the gardens and the lawns
and jagged wire from tree to tree;
the lake is desolate of swans;
in tortured immobility
the deities of stone and bronze
await a new catastrophe.

Phantasmagorical at nights
yellow and white and amethyst
the starshells burn and Verey lights
and silent rivers of the mist
flood the landscape till we feel
like drowned men, ghastly and unreal.

And recent ghosts appear: Odette
in skirt ballooning at the hips
tosses a hasty kiss and slips
away to taunt the Senator
who strong with marc and anisette
pursues her like a matador.

The fleeing feminine takes cover
behind a hellenistic Venus
coquettishly smiling to her lover
while he, beard waggling in the wind,
seems an overdressed Silenus.

The mist hangs lower gradually,
an enemy machine gun mocks
this ante-bellum delicacy
and when the firing is at rest
a bronze Priapus grieves, his chest
a perforated pepper box.





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