Crave Love, Pezanas

by Garry Robert McDougall

Spiraling into Pezenas,
crossing to Cafeland still sleeping,
the old town's forsaken lanes, trinkets dangling,
stray dogs confused by daylight,
nothing to bark for.

Bumping into you, Pezenas,
drawn to little green frames in Michelin maps,
everyone knowing you and your charming Moliere,
here so many years ago, giant of French theatre,
seasoning you with hilarity and storm,
imaginations fired.

Your Rue Jean Jaures is wide and bent,
like a beggar, Champs Elyse with a limp,
in memory of his assassination,
late-love for Jean, regrets enduring,
shops closed, architecture scuttled.

Spy the medieval town,
arch-framed to rising hillock,
legacy of disease and torture,
domination and trial-by-mire,
preserved cobblestones beating on paradox.

Adore the hocus-pocus of yesteryear,
Jewish quarter a' gache,
its plaque recalling your prisoners of identity,
today's residents at plaintive doors
haunting, blushing, blundering,
fumbling with locks to the tourist eye.

Pezenas, prosperous and well loved,
keeper of dialect Oc, lonesome for Moliere.
gathering craftspeople, fondling your galleries,
inhabiting musee, statues of bronze and birds
decorating your good self, cats and dogs unleashed.

People sweep, serve and converse the good air,
sell knick-knacks and handbags of leather.
Your visitors see shadows for nothing,
courtyard studio with
ceramic giraffe, cane flamingo
and gorillas with erections,
behind frightening palm trees.

Expectant tourists borne on carefree wings,
retreating to the innocence of cafe,
'Bon Jour' and 'L'addition, s'il vou plait.'
Pezenas serving lashings of poetry
with almond panache, cream of onion soup,
all your ways lent to welcome.

In Nazi years, Penanas' unflappable Baron
craved love,
gifting twenty-generation treasure
tapestries of Empire walls,
Eternity's dress rehearsal rooms,
icons and instruments of toil.
Your halles turn heads, gathering
in one-euro musee,
impatient Moliere in the back room
breathing the sweetness of lavender and musk,
laundering his clothes in hot waters,
shattering crockery, offending the mistress and
biting his tongue.

What finery in muslin, taffeta, silk,
shining-cotton and Georgette of the Good and Wealthy,
a hundred beau garments worn by worthy men
and better women,
There! See Moliere stripping their pretense,
mingling with diplomacy,
the women of high hair,
heels doublets and cuplets, powder and lace
(a fainting spell so easy to waist),
men without baldric and sword,
and tights that harden the nipples.

Jean-Baptiste sits with ink and quill,
milk and dill, all genius for the noble nothings,
wit and mirth, the gifted babble,
servants gathering kitchen and pantry
plucking ducks with duplicity,
scullion of thunder and gambol,
piping-hot denials, giggles in the kitchen,
cramp and scornful brogue,
patent broth and cough, and Madame,
wiggling her toes, glancing sideway to
a fellow enrapt in rags.

In forgotten corridor, hail Le Poulain
your totem colt with a purple fringe,
encrusted garlic and olive oil of centuries,
perfumed wood with a frightened eye,
rode high on nine men's shoulders,
festival musicians dancing abandon,
rocking the crockery and ruffling pedestrians.

When Moliere saw man and woman riding Poulain,
peasant and royal sharing pageantry,
he knew betrayal and wretched illusion,
the once promised soon abandoned,
stage giant sharing a peasant's cruel fate,
laughing at life fit for a dirty silk glove.

Crave Love Pezanas,
today's young and talented artists
inhabit your warehouses, alleyways
and potent perceptions,
lusting fame and audience, sensuality
and surprise, parading their Enlightenment heart
with something thrilling.

Crave love.
May's visitors have not arrived,
perhaps patrolling the Mediterre for sun,
studying for last exams, Paris engaged,
Marseille hosting Francois Hollande,
Pezenas lonely and forlorn,
visitors surveying your cobblestone hind,
catching idle words, expiring minds on parking meters,
departing for Arles.

Jean Baptist beats the drum,
beats the drum, to idle shopkeepers
leaning on hungry doors,
showers sweeping idle conversation
harrying visitors into cafes of chocolate wings.
Moliere beats the drum,
with Poulain of the frightened eye:
'Come along. Come along.
Join the highways of desire,
the crossroads of liberty,
the marketplace of fraternite'
Come along to faire Pezanas.'
so clouds will partir,
minstrels shall play
and caravans dream their way
to our doors.

Crave Love.

Garry Robert McDougall's picture

A Sydney poet and novelist, Garry gives Spanish Pilgrimage presentations, writes novels and occasional opinion pieces, teaches poetry and exhibits paintings and photographs. He is a member of the DiVerse poetry group and the South Coast Writers Centre executive. In 2013 To San Domingo de la Calzada won Second Prize, Glen Phillips Poetry Prize. In 2012, Beating Time won Highly Commended in the Peter Cowan National Short Story Prize. In 2015, he won First Prize in the Peter Cowan Short Story Prize. His early walks guidebooks, Great North Walk and New South Walks Heritage Walks, were both published with Kangaroo Press. His two novels, Belonging and Trust, are Australian stories based on historical events around 1900 and 1988 respectively. His third novel, Knowing Simone, is set in Victor Hugo's France. He won artist/author in residence with Arteles in Finland, combined with long distance walking journeys in Spain and Portugal, soon to be published as Damn! His novel's common thread is respect for people caught in hostile historical circumstances, dramatising their negotiation of powerful social and historical forces. His poetry might rhyme, be experimental, lyrical, visual or sparse, but time, word, place and the human spirit are paramount.

Last updated July 07, 2016