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Ville (translation of "City")
Going by Taxi
My Doctrine
(Shoo-Fly Pie Recipe)
More poems by Beaumont

        The catalogue of forms is endless:
        until every shape has found its city,
        new cities will continue to be born.
―Italo Calvino

Was it impossible to love the city
in which it happened?
City of unfinished structure,
city of developing forms.
Where the red crane against the blue sky
guided the calculated geometry of steel
through the delineating space.
The church sent blessings
and a parcel of its adjacent heaven.
The community assembled
a collective will of iron.
The courage to build slowly
in the determined Roman way—
to knock off at sundown,
return the next day and the next,
thermos of coffee snapped under
the metal dome of a lunch kit.
Already the neighbors’ eyes
climbed like elevators,
passing the three floors of infancy,
ten of childhood, how many
teenaged stories . . .
Out of the great blasted hole—
which had shaken their bearing walls,
which had drilled them from sleep—
it reached, square upon square,
where all that could happen would happen,
faithful to the blueprint.
Ceilings, floors, membranes of the common walls.
Even feelings seemed less abstract
once the concrete was poured.
Rooms where they lost, pined, brooded,
listened to wonderful music,
wrote letters, washed,
concocted recipes of deficiency
or excess, shifted photos
of the living with the dead.
When had they moved in?
To what lease had they signed their assent?
Now, making out envelopes, they didn’t
hesitate, writing the return address
as though it had always existed.
What began with desire, the girder,
the rising silhouette at twilight—
shape of things to come.

Lire en Francais

Jeanne Marie Beaumont from Placebo Effects (W.W. Norton & Co.) © 1997. All rights reserved.

Going by Taxi

I wear gloves to my elbows;  you wear herringbone trousers.
It starts to snow;  the streetlights haven’t switched on yet.
I lack ordinary patience;  where’s the towne crier?
     You say correction;  I say retraction.
The citrus look exacting;  they make calm orange pyramids.
Let me buy alstroemeria;  you choose the beer.
Wood bundles whiten near the awning;  remember our fireplace?
Life takes things away from you;  the snow gives way to sleet.
     You say umbrella;  I say imbroglio.
Tuesday’s best for sleuthing;  we pursue the stubborn missing.
When I’m needy, I’m rude;  keep an eye down the avenue.
We don’t want to let that taxi go by;  we don’t.
All this time yields no evidence;  all this time gives no clue.
     I say angry;  you say ennui.
Let’s kiss when the meter starts;  ah, here come the lights.
I’ve forgotten the address;  you’ve a claim check in your pocket.
We stocked our coat closet with wood;  it was ten, eleven years ago.
Bugs crept out under the door;  carried far from earthy homes.
     You say step on it;  I say no stop.

We don’t know the tune on the radio, and the street’s turned black
     with snow.

Jeanne Marie Beaumont from Burning of the Three Fires (BOA Editions, Ltd.) © 2010. All rights reserved.

My Doctrine

Says, with a glossary of fluctuating colors
flowers gaze at us. Includes flies but also
strips of glue hung from kitchen ceilings,
white-capped women making very sticky pies―
der goo will be on der bottom yet.
This kitchen features an arching faucet
presenting water to the fingertip.
A handy modern thing. Hail chrome!
My doctrine welcomes the water chapel
of the home with its trinity of shrines:
one for sitting, one for lying in, one to stand
and bend over, cleansing the tongue.
My doctrine prefers digression to
interruption. Coast to brake.
Finds safety inside parentheses.
Several passages concern the minuscule,
esteem the microscope, rabbit hole
of inquiry. Goes wandering and collecting,
brings back little things rolled up in
last week's news. Upholds the requirement
for polishing. Sleep and shine, sleep and shine.
Doctrine of reusable brown bags, jars.
Cat-friendly. Grows garden, gives mums, gives peas.
If thirsty getting, it directs a martini. Summons
persistence in the face of ordinary sadness.
Has no benchmark, no foothold.
But the hands are weaving some colors
together to make the eyes happy.
Because the body is a system that helps itself
toward pleasure. Let our hairs turn gold
and red per leaves. In a thousand worlds,
innocence needs constant recalculation.
Of two selves, one going out cloaked
in the other (body-guard doctrine). Repentance
beyond apology. Another handy thing.
Dishes stacked in order of size.
Take the six-inch plate for the shoo-fly pie.
My doctrine can't solve for why, but expects
ongoing curious conduct. You've never had
shoo-fly pie? Rejoice how the silver fork,
its tarnish rubbed and rubbed away
only yesterday, goes brilliant
into the cave of the mouth. My doctrine
is impermanent, mutable, dissolving
even now as goo to gone in my throat
so that I cannot complete

from Curious Conduct (BOA Editions, 2004), copyright 2004 by Jeanne Marie Beaumont. All rights reserved.

Author Note:

Shoo-Fly Pie

Shoo-fly pie is a Pennsylvania Dutch dessert that is popular in Pennsylvania, where I grew up. It is very sweet―imagine pecan pie without the pecans―hence the name. This recipe is one of the favorites in our family. It results in the so-called "wet-bottom" variety of the pie.

Prepare a 9-inch pie crust. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare crumb mix: With a pastry blender mix 1 cup flour, 3 tablespoons softened butter, and 2/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar until coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Prepare liquid: In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup dark Karo, 1/4 cup Grandma's unsulphured molasses, and 1 cup of boiling water. Stir to dissolve syrups. Then stir in 1 tsp. of baking soda. (Mixture should foam a bit). Whisk a little of this mixture into 1 slightly beaten egg, then stir this back into the molasses mixture.

Assembly: Stir 1 cup of the crumbs into the molasses mixture and pour into the unbaked pie crust. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly on top.

Bake in 400 oven for 25 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and filling is puffy. Remove from oven and cool on a rack thoroughly before cutting.
"Der goo will be on der bottom yet!"


        Le catalogue des formes est infini:
        aussi longtemps que chaque forme n’aura pas trouvé sa ville,        
        de nouvelles villes continueront de naître.

        ―Italo Calvino

Etait-il impossible d’aimer la ville
où tout ceci se passa?
Ville à l’édification inachevée,
aux formes en expansion.
Où sur le fond bleu du ciel des grues rouges
manoeuvrent dans un espace circonscrit
les pièces de charpente métallique.
L’église donna sa bénédiction
et céda une portion de son espace céleste.
Toute la communauté se rassembla,
unie par une même volonté de fer.
Le parti pris de construire lentement
en suivant l’exemple romain –
de cesser le travail à la tombée de la nuit,
de le reprendre le lendemain
et aussi les jours suivants,
la Thermos de café calée au fond
du couvercle en métal de la cantine.
Déjà les voisins levaient
les yeux a la manière des ascenseurs,
passé les trois âges de la petite enfance,
les dix années de l’enfance, combien
de stades compte l’adolescence …
Hors du trou géant obtenu à coups d’explosifs –
qui avaient fait trembler leurs murs,
les avaient tirés du sommeil –
il s’extirpa, étage par étage,
et tout ce qui devait arriver arriva,
fidèle au plan.
Plafonds, planchers, cloisons.
Même les sentiments parurent moins abstraits
aprés que le béton fut coulé.
Les pièces dans lesquelles ils méditaient,
soupiraient, se faisaient du souci,
écoutaient de la musique merveilleuse,
rédigeaient des lettres, lavaient le linge,
confectionnaient des plats de régime
ou des recettes gourmandes, tournaient
les pages d’un album de photos.
Quand avaient-ils emménagé?
Quel était le terme de leur contrat?
A présent, sur l’enveloppe,
ils n’hésitaient plus
en inscrivant au dos l’adresse de l’expéditeur
comme si celle-ci avait toujours existé.
Ce qui partit du désir, la poutre,
une silhouette plus grande chaque soir –
la forme des choses à venir.

Traduit de l’américain par Francis Benteux