The famous Polish poet calls Simone de Beauvoir a Nazi hag
but to me she will always be her famous book,
the one with the Matisse paper cut on the cover,
a sad blue nude I took into the woods.
Where we college girls went to coax the big picture
from her, as if she could tell us how to use
all the strange blades on our Swiss Army knives—
the firewood we arranged in either log cabin or tepee,
a little house built to be burned down.
Which could be a metaphor:
Simone as the wind puffing the damp flames,
a cloud with a mouth that became obsolete
once we started using gasoline. Still,
she gave me one lesson that sticks, which is:
do not take a paperback camping in the rain
or it may swell to many times its original size,
and if you start with a big book you’ll end up
with a cinderblock. In that vein I pictured Simone as huge
until (much later) I read that her size was near-midget—
imagine, if we took Gertrude Stein, we’d be there still,
trying to build some kind of travois to drag her body out.
The other thing I remember, a word, immanence—
meaning, you get stuck with the cooking and laundry
while the man gets to hit on all your friends in Paris.
Sure you can put the wet book in the oven
and try baking it like a cake. But the seam will stay soggy
even when the pages rise, ruffled like French pastry.
As far as laundry goes, it’s best I steer clear,
what with my tendency to forget the tissues
wadded in my sleeves. What happens is
I think I’m being so careful, and everything
still comes out like the clearing where we woke.
Covered in flakes that were then the real thing:
snow. Which sounds more la-di-da in French.
But then the sun came up and all la neige vanished
like those chapters we grew bored with and had skipped.
Lucia Perillo, “Le deuxieme sexe” from Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones. Copyright © 2016 by Lucia Perillo. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.
Source: Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
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