Magritte has a copper-jacketed point
draped in spotless white, right down to the gloves.
War can be so disarming robed in peace.
This socialite turns heads, dressed to the nines
in high-collared lace propriety, hat
ostrich-plumed with aspirations, marabou-
trimmed parasol. Height of Victorian
colonial style. I look at her, think
of Death in Venice—the Visconti film,
Aschenbach as Gustav Mahler, watching
the boy Tadzio. Adagietto
from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony sighing
for a culture about to be machine-
gunned from Belle Époque incredulity
as Aschenbach expires in a beach chair.
Dressed in white like this woman. A trickle
of black hair dye down his head cementing
the metaphor—Europe having gone grey
but with a ravenous libido.
Imperial conquest and bravado,
breaking a sweat in the white man’s yearning,
doing its best not to admit the wear.
Instruct natives on how to bleach bloodstains
from muslin. Expect snowy countenance.
Not ready to bleed itself ivory.
Aghast when the sea ran in carmine breakers
in place of Mediterranean blue.
Even the French language would seem to blame
women for war—the feminine ending
on the word guerre. Shifting the blame. A play
on words upon which Magritte addresses
a question, dressed in shoreline finery.
Does peace really shine, opulent, smiling
without a speck of dirt, a cloudless sun,
umbrellas and fresh strawberries on a beach?
What about those purple posies, bouquet
larger than a cauliflower head in place
of a face? Leaving imagination
to fill in the woman’s color of eyes, shape
of her nose—the details of what makes war
or peace. Not to mention how posies hid
the stench of death as bonfires of bodies
collapsed and ashes, ashes all falling to
where the living walked, sooner or later.
Does the woman really peer through purple
petals? Are they more like horse blinkers, to
guide what is or is not to be noticed?
She just needs to take care not to sully
those starched gloves. She learned from Macbeth’s wife, yes?
La Grand Guerre Façades (oil on canvas, 1964)
by Belgian Surrealist painter René Magritte (1898-1967)*
See also poem and poet’s commentary by Jonathan Yungkans in response to The Son of Man: Le fils de l’homme
is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, Gleam: Journal of the Cadralor, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach.
⚡ Le Grand Matin by Jonathan Yungkans, a Finalist in MacQ’s Triple-Q Writing Challenge (Issue 11, January 2022)
⚡ La Porte by Yungkans in MacQ’s special Christmas Eve issue (10X, December 2021)
⚡ Two Duplex Poems, plus author’s notes on the poems and on the form, by Yungkans in Issue 10 of MacQ (October 2021)
⚡ Lawful and Proper, poem in Rise Up Review (Fall 2020)
⚡ Cadralor in the Key of F-Sharp as It Cuts into My Spine, in the inaugural issue of Gleam (Fall 2020)
⚡ I’d Love to Cook Like Hannibal Lecter [video], read by the poet at an event sponsored by Moon Tide Press (10 October 2019) celebrating the anthology Dark Ink: A Poetry Anthology Inspired by Horror
⚡ Saving the Patient, poem in The Voices Project (18 January 2018)