Douglas Oliver

A purple-haired woman
with a paper handkerchief for a face
runs down the rue des Messageries.
Between the perspective of buildings
tall crane idle against the lines of morning
and a doleful green lion with navy-blue eyes
tattering down to emerald wraiths
dissipates its body in smoke.
Among the stream of Lubavitchers
this Saturday from the synagogue
comes a half-transparent gesture
with a hand that turns in mid-air
and comes back boldly dark blue.
Feminine ginger forearms
poke from a national marine’s white blouse,
black slacks and sailor boy hat,
red-head squatting on the pavement bollard
where rue Faubourg Poissonières
widens for our supermarket;
could be any teenager’s frail life,
enlisted to right our errors
of despair, aggression, superstition.
Cirrus on blue above.
Matt black fighter plane
dropped in the road by a child
sets its heel on the sparkling tarmac,
the silhouette of it skids about and becomes
curling tyre marks, or a relic of
a dangerous attitude, setting children’s lives
at risk. Our corruption needs copious innocence
to work on: I remember green fields,
a cook crossing to the airmen’s mess
at Innesbrook, cirrus on blue in that vignette.
They could enlist me then; they couldn’t now.
That summer of ’57, like a tornado
in my mind I tell you,
green imploding on black
like a green bomb splotch on the Suez Canal.
In this morning’s sunshine,
a cook crossing now to the boulangerie
triggered that memory. Opening the Trib
two paces down from the Metro,
I see they opened fire on the President of Egypt
yesterday as his motorcade
drove to the Addis Ababa summit.
Nearly caused war with Sudan; young Egyptian
forearms writing out enlistment papers;
one day there’s a youth’s flayed arms but no youth,
green body tattering down in bomb smoke.