by Lori Lamothe
after Robert Desnos
In the cafes when you woke out of a trance
the wine trembled in crystal glasses
and even the wintery light stopped to listen,
your voice a wave cresting over noise.
Back then, surrealism smelled like leaves
and cigarettes and willowy girls
whose gowns shimmered piano keys.
Back then, you couldn’t stop for logic
or just plain sense—the world
an iceberg melting in a desert, its hot
jazz seas fanning out across monotony.
It wasn’t until Auschwitz that you really
got it. Knew that to read happy lives
in the sea of palms held open before you
was to be, for an hour, immortal—
the guards confused, unsettled,
even a little afraid as they loaded
so many skeletons back onto the truck
and drove away from death
while awaiting further orders.