Charles Meryon

Meryon saw it coming (who was he?):
No people, so no noise. As it should be.
The Bridge. The Morgue. Ghostly round his bed
Antipodean atolls and tattoos had fluted,

Volcanoes puffed. Then borborygmic sea
Forked, at its last gasp, into a V:
Down that black gallery and backward slid
A syrup, foul, ovum and sperm concocted,
The foggy groan of Antichrist. 1863:
People mattered nothing, live or dead.

Paris by his impeccable etchings emptied:
Pointy turrets, windows, not a single head
Poking out—and there across the sky,
Tortuous, the skeleton birds creak by.

As if all the steps had stopped
As if all the takes had token
As if all the creaks had croaken
As if all that weeps had wopped

As if all that flips had flopped
As if all that mocks had moaken
As if all that speaks had spoken
As if all that drips had dropped

As if all that hopes had hopped
As if all that leaps had lopped
As if all that aches had oaken
As if all that peaks had poken
As if all that creeps had cropped
As if all that peeps had popped

The old aquaforte art is back, thought Baudelaire.
Multiple majesty of stone piled on stone;
Obelisks of industry discharge into the air
Their coalescent smoke. Almost airborne
Scaffoldings roped to monuments under repair—
Very poetic, beauty so paradoxical
I never saw the like;

                        and the sky over it all—
Eagles. Tumult. Perspective deepens there
With all the dramas that have come and gone.

The artist: Once a sailor, now he’ll seek
In nooks of masonry a sphinx.

                            I think you’d get a scare
To hear him talk: “Poe did not exist, aha!
Poe was a syndicate!”

                            To Madame Aupick:
Au fait tu as peut-être oublié tous ça.

How should people promenade on maps?
My map—I image what goes up, like steeple...
On map there is no space, no time, for people...
With window slot I thicken this façade, perhaps?

I map the time. These arches, tenements—
Voice the design of fate, exact. Why folks?
They are confusion. Burin cannot coax
Their hollow little solids to make sense.

The earth, a globe. On it Paree, immense
Phantom, or ulcer. So I map excrescence.
I probe its twisted fibres till I find
The core of its cabala, in my mind.

Ah, you are being faraway too kind.
Dark, beautiful cabala!
                              Goodbye, gentlemens.

Christopher Middleton, “Charles Meryon” from Twenty Tropes for Doctor Dark incorporated in Tankard Cat (UK title The Anti-Basilisk) (New York: The Sheep Meadow Press, 2004).
Source: Tankard Cat (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2004)
More Poems by Christopher Middleton