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Published: Thu Apr 15 1999
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

I swore to a friend that yes, you can live on martinis and chocolate!
Dark chocolate, real chocolate, slightly bitter and lovely to smell.

And it helps to have a working knowledge of languages other than English,
French, perhaps German or Spanish.
This will serve you well from Brussels to Cracow.

Entertain your learned hosts. Toss in expertise, opinion and artful snobbery.
Baraka and Yeats, poetry, theater, cultural inquiry, any good reason to party.
Well, party on. What a swank notion, the Black sophisticate
with a working knowledge of Celtic mythology and hoodoo, shouts and blues.

Sophisticated lady. Walking this tensile rope that swings between pocketbook and fantasy.
This side Paradise. That side bankruptcy.
Who cares if the woods are scary, dark and deep?
German food is gray, white and green, the sausages brown.
Winter food. Winter people.

The Lenbachhaus is empty but for the curator, an interpreter and me. We walk at a pace
known only to museum workers—respectful, professional, with time enough for the surprise,
the find, a reverent glance. There is danger here and dedication.

Franz Marc’s fantastic horses swirling reds, yellows, an impossible purplish blue.
Read birth dates and death notices. World War I—destroyer of artists.

There is our heroine. The girlfriend or wife who will not sacrifice
one measure of her talent even as her beloved recoils
from his promise of a perfect union made in art.

Left at the train station, in an airport, on the side of the road,
women have always been wise to scrap and savvy composing
canvasses of prodigious color and luminosity. It is not always

night in our soul of souls. Just a weak ache for what could have been.
We were raised to recognize the brute’s soft smile and the trickster’s violent craft, but
not the tender one’s evolving desire, his roving eye, his voice crashing against our tears.

Who is to blame? The ideal of it all. Gabrielle Münter stopped not once the making of
her art. How could she, when her lover stopped not the making of his, only his love for her.

Blue, blue, blue rider. Blaue Reiter See what you have left behind.
Paintings dance and marvel, assume aspects of magic, prophecy, precision and dread.
Iron works forged a martial steel. Gunpowder, dynamite, munitions, munificence.

And yes, she hid from the Nationalist Socialists remnants of pre-war experiments
essaying the values of colors, shapes, the artists’ place beneath the dismal stars to come.

This is how the story spends itself, late twentieth century on the wide
boulevards of great European cities where the dust and trouble
of war and revival stratify the effortless rebuilding.

A plaque in the plaza marking a speech, a battle, the death of one great man
or a tribe’s lonely disaster. Rings of fire or rings of gold.
Sooner or later a story unfolds.

What matters is that I could be there, three days before Palm Sunday, 1989
eyeing the elaborate chocolate rabbits in the window of a Munich confectioner.

The sweet hare’s fabled face-whiskers shiver in the icy breeze of air conditioning.
His ears proportioned, listening for our appreciation.

You really want panic? Think of the choclateer’s skill.
How for every perfect bunny in the window,
hundreds lie in pieces awaiting his children’s ready mouths.

Ah, the kids get the damaged goods for that is the way of the world.
And they lick the brutalized ears with much joy.

See what's inside AGNI 49

Patricia Spears Jones is an African-American poet, playwright and arts administrator. _The Weather That Kills _(Coffee House Press, 1995) is her first full-length book. Mabou Mines produced her play, Mother, with music by Carter Burwell in 1994. (updated 1999)

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