Today as we walk in Paris I promise to focus More on the sights before us than on the woman We noticed yesterday in the photograph at the print shop, The slender brunette who looked like you As she posed with a violin case by a horse-drawn omnibus Near the Luxembourg Gardens. Today I won't linger long On the obvious point that her name is as lost to history As the name of the graveyard where her bones Have been crumbling to dust for over a century. The streets we're to wander will shine more brightly Now that it's clear the day of her death Is of little importance compared to the moment Caught in the photograph as she makes her way Through afternoon light like this toward the Seine. The cold rain that fell this morning has given way to sunshine. The gleaming puddles reflect our mood Just as they reflected hers as she stepped around them Smiling to herself, happy that her audition An hour before went well. After practicing scales For years in a village whose name isn't recorded, She can study in Paris with one of the masters. No way of telling now how close her life Came to the life she hoped for as she rambled, On the day of the photograph, along the quay. But why do I need to know when she herself, If offered a chance to peruse the book of the future, Might shake her head no and turn away? She wants to focus on her afternoon, now almost gone, As we want to focus on ours as we stand Here on the bridge she stood on to watch The steamers push up against the current or ease down. This flickering light on the water as boats pass by Is the flow that many painters have tried to capture Without holding too still. By the time these boats arrive Far off in the provinces and give up their cargoes, Who knows where the flow may have carried us? But to think now of our leaving is to wrong the moment. We have to be wholly here as she was If we want the city that welcomed her To welcome us as students trained in her school To enjoy the music as much as she did When she didn't grieve that she couldn't stay
Don't be chagrined that your novel,
Which yesterday seemed done at last,
Is revealed in the light of morning
To be only your latest draft.
It could mean that your vision cleared
While you were sleeping, your sense of fitness
Grows in the night like corn or bamboo.
Don't assume you're tampering with the truth
By wanting to make your hero more likable.
He can still be someone who's liable
To fritter his life away in random pastimes.
Only now, for his sake, you want to present him
As fighting a little harder against his temperament
So the reader, instead of looking down from on high,
Stands close enough to the action to sympathize.
As for your heroine, you can still depict her
As someone who hides, beneath her apparent warmth,
A seam of coldness. But now you're ready to probe
What the coldness conceals: the wound, say,
That makes trust a challenge.
Where, she wonders, will her courage come from
If she's unable to find it when she looks within?
If you consider any hope of change
To be, in the end, illusion, be true to your vision.
Just don't ignore the change in yourself,
Your willingness, say, to be more patient
Exploring alternatives. Each new effort
Could prove another chapter in a single story
Slowly unfolding in which you learn
By trial and error, what the plot requires.
In the meantime, let me assure you your heroine
In this new, more generous version,
Seems to be learning something
She'll need to learn before the climax
If real change is to be at least an option.
Let me say that your hero's remorse near the end
For his lack of enterprise and direction
Is more convincing than it's ever been.
At last, instead of giving a speech already written,
He seems to be groping for words. Not sure
What he'll say until he says it, and then
Not sure if he ought to be satisfied
Or open to one more try.