Once, in his presence, Churchill
got Irving Berlin mixed up
with Isiah Berlin—the bulldog
perplexed that he had never read
the philosophic treatise “A White
Christmas.” I often mix up Manet
and Monet, but I never had either
over for tea, or good hard liquor.
Confusion can be the first step
to forgetting, not that this should
generate maximum concern if
one remembers there’s much, too
much to remember—throw a chest
or two overboard and wave tenderly.
The two younger Polish poets
who are reading haven’t ignored history,
but its weight falls on them lighter
than it did on their elders, the decades
of splendid, wrenching gravitas.
One of the poets reads a poem that claims
good literature requires good toilet paper.
Toilet paper needs its historians and poets
too—and I feel much better now.
I travel down the huge elevator and walk
out into the rainy night in Warsaw, New
York City—here in Cambridge where
a little girl sloshes and dances in puddles
galore, knowing what’s important.
In this Paris neighborhood
I read a book on The Resistance
to strengthen my poor French.
As I close the book the sun starts to set
and two pigeons land on the window-
sill, shaking some rain off their wings,
watching me closely like philosophers.
Buoyed by the valor of the past, I’m ready
to go out and order take out from a number
of establishments, ready to carry my baguette
of language with firmness and pride
down the boulevard, even singing a French
song I never realized I knew, doing a nifty
spin move past a man wearing a LeBron James
jersey who says something in French,
cheering me on, cheering me on, I’m certain.
Tim Suermondt is the author of four full-length collections of poems: Trying To Help The Elephant Man Dance (The Backwaters Press, 2007), Just Beautiful (New York Quarterly Books, 2010), Election Night And The Five Satins (Glass Lyre Press, 2016) and The World Doesn’t Know You (Pinyon Publishing, 2017). His fifth book Josephine Baker Swimming Pool is forthcoming by MadHat Press. He has poems published in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, Bellevue Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, december magazine, Plume Poetry Journal, Poetry East and Stand Magazine (England), among others. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.