Friday, April 21, 2017

Balzac's Ghost and the Crucial Detail




She brought the wrong clothes to Paris,
which wasn’t as warm as imagination.
She borrowed a sweater and a coat
from me; also shoes, and the heavy socks
that made them fit.  My sweater, especially,
seemed to enjoy having her wear it
in cafes, brasseries, and markets. I

explained all this to Balzac’s ghost
at the writer’s home on Rue Raynouard.
Even though I wasn’t speaking French,
Balzac understood immediately. I went
on to observe that almost everyone
almost everywhere works hard and life
slips by so quickly and then all of a sudden

you’re a ghost listening to a tourist.
Yes, yes, said Balzac’s ghost, but
tell me, what color is the sweater she
borrowed from you? Green, I said.
That, he said, is today’s crucial detail.

Hans Ostrom

from The Coast Starlight: Collected Poems 1976-2006
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