The Crack-Up was the Fitzgerald I read closely.
Nose between the pages, between the legs . . .
which brings up Madame Bovary:
What could a mere tyro do with Emma?
Was I too young or too jaded by her jonquils?
Flaubert stayed with me longer. Fitzgerald’s
Tender Is the Night’s original was revised,
though Nicole and Dick Diver lived a circle of,
call it doom, for no linear chronology
could put their lives back on course. Thus, breakdown,
crack-up, the end before the death.
Like Bovary, The Great Gatsby was a primer.
Unlike Gatsby, Bovary’s translations
ensured no two Emmas, Charleses, Rodolfes
were ever the same. Nick Buchanan was always
telling Gatsby’s story with the same words;
it was I, the reader, who changed.
Translation opened the doors of the world.
In L’education sentimentale I thrived.
I was Frederic Moreau. Seattle
was Paris. I moved to San Francisco.
Unlike Moreau, I married my long love.
It was her legs I put my love between.
Go on, she said, I never tire.
What of the chaos in the streets?
She said, Please don’t stop. It will still be there.
She was right, power never relented.
How could I say I had found life’s supreme pleasure
in this woman’s body and supple mind . . .
But I digress, I get ahead
of my story. I’m still in Seattle,
going to college. Anna invites me
to dinner. I tell them I read and write
hoping to be the Flaubert of my day,
fearing I will die young like Fitzgerald.
Anna says, Be yourself. Paul nods. They know
one art a lifetime is ample
if you are to learn what there is to know
that lies fallow until the sound
of words send what is inside out.
(23 January 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander