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Page 81

I spoke of the perversity of French,
making blanc (so close to black) mean
white -- white as snow; and just today
(one "just today" or another)
I notice that French snow is neige,
with its distant echo of negri (Negro).

Neige is pronounced nezh; as with most French,
to say neige, you look down your nez at
the rest of us.

It's early March. Our snow got dirty,
then melted, even the remaining white of it
serving only to darken our soil.
Water on sidewalk darkens cement too,
unless a puddle catches the slant sun,
becoming blindingly blanc (shiny).
Will you have a glass of light water
or dark water? How can whiteness
soil the soil? Eau-eau! What can
matter be?

Neige in the nez, that painful freshness,
the icy nip of everything, every atom,
slowing down, the frantic spin of particles
that seemed to fill up the gaps in solids
staggers like an old phonograph record
winding down, the shrillness of things
swallowed into a drunken basso-profundo
stillness -- but, Oh,

the nip in nose is not cold, no, it's the
poetry rushing in to fill a void, warm blood
raging at the cold.

Note: "Eau-Eau! What can matter be" alludes to "Oh Dear, What can the matter be", eau-eau (meaning water-water) sounding like "OhOh" to my barbarian Yankee ears. "Neige in the nez" – literally "snow in the nose", that nip of cold in one's breath on a winter day. Cold IS a slowing of particle motion in matter.

For those who don't recall what happened when an old wind-up phonograph "wound down" (needing rewinding by turning a crank on the side of the console), the record would slow, gradually, a fast treble sound becoming a slow, deep bass sound, a baby's cry becoming a low moan – and then continue to slow and deepen until the phonograph (and sound) stopped. Hence the idea of shrillness swallowed into a drunken basso-profundo stillness, drunken, because thus slowed down, the sounds revealed uneveness. (Profundo: This may describe a professor untying his shoes or removing someone's bra [prof-undo], or it may describe a come-hither hairdo [a pro-fun do], and there are other possibilities.)

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