Madame Moon, Nuit Bleck

Voyage of my longing…

Oh farther than everything…

Thanks, W.S. Merwin and thanks, Neruda and, foremost, Thanks, Despair.  You are such a good friend to poetry.

What to make of those lines?  Neruda’s voyage, eyes-open, led by longing’s lodestone. From there, you wind up either at the garbage barge or at Chez Poetry.  If you are quite lucky, then you wind up very, very far out.  There is no kiosk for tourist information.  Extremely Alone is the guide book series that comes after Lonely Planet.  And you, you had to use the index—oops– for TP.

We have just returned with the girls from an excursion to Musee Carnavalet.  Louis XIV was not a very good locksmith, J observes, seeing the keys to the (former) Bastille.  I miss the keys, focused as I am on counting the severed heads and paintings of the mob’s raid of Invalides, where they secured weapons suitable to the avenging of Emotion.

The pen, in that case, was not as mighty as the sword– not even one-third as mighty.  It was, in fact, useless.

My sneakers squeak systemically on the floors of the Chateau, like the vox vetus of the spectral grandfather in Joyce’s Ulysses, who croaks through his trusty phonograph from the Land of the Dead to the upper realms: Crrwwwwwaaaaaaak! Come Visit!

Rosemarie Waldrop says of art that, in accordance with play theorist D. Winnicott, she prefers to think of it as a holding environment.  If the negotiable truths of Wikipedialicious are to be believed, Winnicott’s study of medicine, whence psychology, originated with his desire to treat himself for a broken clavicle bone.  Like most reputable physicians of the human psyche, the acronym for his theory on human problems is the cry of the impatient cow: M.M.U.U.! or Mothers Mess Us Up.

We are not held well.  Hence, the need for a holding tank.  Hence, art.

With a big, big fish in it.

Paris has always nourished artists by feeding them their daily vitamin D, necessary co-factor in self-torment: Depression.  With the community historically (and currently?) sold on Vitamin D, it is easy to see how pure mineral joy has long been held suspect.   Better to have a glass of wine and look sour, lest anyone think the failure of art is just around the corner.

Waldrop, re-quoting Stein: we don’t know where we’re going, but we’re on our way.

Do we have a migration instinct leading us towards the eddy of the future?

This morning when I leave the house, the air is grey-ripe.  I am only happy when I am depressed and thinking, Paris confides in me.  If I am not depressed and over-mentalizing, where is happiness to be found?

I sing blasphemously to Kali as I walked down the street.  It’s an ad hoc experiment: will I get arrested for displaying joy?  Here, only a few permits for Unreasonable Happiness are granted per year—existentialists could only have  thrived in a state scaffolded by administrative futility—requiring a lot of paperwork.  You might even need a doctor’s note, as you do to join any gym facilities, vouching that systemic happiness will not result in your ill health.

On this, the day before Nuit Blanche—when the city stays up all night to appreciate art.  Hurrah!  I’m on my fourth cup of gunpowder tea by way of preparation to see if I can make it at least through midnight, when the arms of the clock find true verticality.  That thing I’ve been looking for.  For Jewish Mystics, the best hour for meditation.

Midnight is also a really good time for falafel in the Jewish quarter.

How Nuit Blanche shakes down in actuality:  Nuit Bleck.  All the art we find before two a.m. is installation art and, from my brief purview, it is all bad.  Some will take the absolutist’s position that there is no such thing as bad art.  Well, that’s nice.

The first stop is Notre Dame, where I learn, flabbergasted at the entry line that snakes around and around and around—art is a snake eating its own tail?—a new essential skill: cutting the queue.  This is hardcore performance art, in situ, and must be carried out in a fashion so sexy that those in line behind you dare not indite you: t’would be a tacky move on their part.   Your stealth is such; your tragic innocence, shit-head that you are, is on par with the Pieta.  The cutter triumphs.

And so we triumph.  I feel the Goddess Irony nimbly alight: cutting one’s way into a church, for centuries the pride of Paris?  But, yes.  When in Rome—or not in Rome, as the case may be—do as etc. etc. etc.  This marks my first shady pilgrimage into Notre Dame (renamed “Church of Reason” during the French Revolution) an achievement bar none of human artistry, brimming with Dracula-esque organ music.  Tonight, it hosts not just God’s nuclear family, but an illuminated crystal show by a famous artist.

Time-out for some art worthy of real pity:

In God’s house you don’t really want to critique the décor.  These art “pieces” are placed in triplicate in the various chapels, glory be to neon.  It may be that when I say “illuminated crystals” you think of precious gems coughed up by the earth, or the mineralogy of William Blake. Rather: this exhibit featured white fabric stretched over geometric frames in all varieties of morphophallism—a neologism the place inspired: the ability of phalli to take myriad shapes.  These are lit from within by neon lights of various hideous colors.  The Virgin Mary, I swear, was wincing.

When we escape from the art, the moon is waiting.  Almost dwarfed by the magnificence of Notre Dame– its imperious and yet soft white edifice– she sits in the oscillating clouds, fuller than full.  And she puts all the art to shame in a quiet second.  My beloved Steven once credited the moon with this very capability.

She’s the Mona Lisa that makes Lisa moan.

And then Ile de St Louis apartments burn.  We stand and watch great plumes of smoke creep towards the moon, black smoke, the kind that human art has trouble withstanding.  Huge tour boats, “mouche” or flies, have to brake unexpectedly in the Seine.  The Ile evacuates onto the closest bridges.  The improvisation unfolds: fire warring with water warring with air warring with destiny.  Destiny doesn’t call art good or bad; it valuates only in accordance with feeding its Louis XVI-esque, insatiable appetite.  I’m hungry, it’s late, I eat.

There is something to be said for the general appetite a full moon stirs up.  The clouds pass back and forth before her, as if they are trying to look busy, while her sensuousness cat-calls the earth’s shoulder. With the exception of one, pre-light hangnail version, this is the first time I’ve seen her since coming to Paris.  Musee Moon: You don’t have to wait on line (yay), you don’t have to ask anyone else’s permission (yay), you don’t have to check your bag or your baggage (yay!) and she doesn’t care, not in the least, what language you do or don’t speak.

And so longing, in its way, charts its brilliant trajectory.


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One Response to “Madame Moon, Nuit Bleck”

  1. rickyb Says:

    You know the poem by Garcia Lorca, “The Moon Sails Out”? I am in mind of it here, in the thicket of your lyrical thinking, Sara. I am becoming attached to the way each one of these entries is a necessary (at least for me) transit through something I also want to dwell on. Dwelling. Dwelling on– a depression. House going up in smoke. Cocteau saying the only thing he would take from a burning house is the fire. A night where everyone stays up too late looking at really bad art so that in the morning there is absolutely nothing to feel good about. Longing knows how to open locks at least… walking through the door’s another thing.

    Much love,


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