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Thought While Visiting the Grand Opera

Thoughts While Visiting the Grand Opera in Paris

Napoleon scoured continents

for matched and colored marbles,

fanned them proudly as a winning hand,

raked in the chips, raised the stakes

in mosaic stones. The cascade

of the grand staircase, the flash

of gems, whetted smiles,

calibrations of disgrace,

fans wafting scandal and musk,

whispers of taffeta.

Rear-stage right,

a chorus of the poor reminds Napoleon

he has a throat.

He beheaded his own

Presidency, crowned himself

where Liberté once lofted baskets of heads

over the crowd’s roar: a sliced

throat sucking air.

Neon expresses the values

we hold dear. Every billboard

a new obligation of freedom.

Models smile as if shopping

has cured them of pain.

A man, kneeling on his cap, stares

at the ground, willing food to appear,

clutches a crayoned sign

informing us at no cost

that he is dying of hunger.

A century later, Marc Chagall

paints the bounce of dance and ping

of violin, over Nappy’s nymphs and fauns.

World war has banished the canned glories.

Malraux hires the sunny Jew

to float iron and fly goats

who pipe and frolic.

This Opera

is all we can touch

of an Emperor’s garments.

And our own sad leader?

Lover of pudgy girls.

What has he bequeathed that a century later

genius might revise?

In today’s paper he surveys an earthquake

somewhere, sporting a lei of flowers

from brown-skinned supplicants whose real

poverty is the need of this unplugged

celebrity. Disguising his hunger as a gift,

he smiles and waves, preening

for the adoring mother in his mind,

tipping his head as if pulled

off plumb by a crown