Stuart Stromin is a South African-born writer and filmmaker, living in Los Angeles. He was educated at Rhodes University, South Africa, the Alliance Francais de Paris, and UCLA. He is a single father with a son, a daughter, a dog and a cat.
A battlement of broken bottles
lines up on top of a brick wall,
rotund bases caked in cement,
necks cracked to puncture the sky,
a circle of spiky teeth,
like jagged rocks on a fortified coastline,
a woolly blanket
with burrs, stains and cat-hair,
tossed over the glass ramparts,
will do the trick.
Safe is an illusion.
There is quicksand,
shifting under the foundations.
There is a grinning wolf,
prowling for opportunity,
charming in his overalls or his formal attire.
Little pig, little pig,
this game turns deadly soon.
on the sour, unyielding shore,
their dowry sunk
in the insidious secrets of the sea.
The white-capped waves
veil promises which will never prosper.
The salt water of a million tears
splashes and heaves.
So many sailors’ wives and sweethearts
will grow bitter.
Little piggy, little piggy,
let me come in.
Sulfur stalks careen in the wind.
Cinders curl and rise.
Black wings devoid of the body of a bird
fly, foreshadowing the storm.
Huffing and puffing is bluffing.
It is so easy to burn down
a house of straw.
There is no guidebook
that can show you Paris
so burn your list
of tourist sites to check
or you will miss it all.
Paris will reveal what you need to see.
The sudden rain
forces you into a café.
Mechanical problems jam the elevators on the Eiffel tower.
The taxis are on strike.
Someone recommends a cup of molten chocolate
in the Luxembourg gardens.
You get lost down the wrong street
in the gray filigrees of drizzle
and shelter in the church at Saint-Sulpice,
where there is an oil painting
of Jacob crossing paths with an angel.
You need to go underground
and through the tunnels of the dead,
resist the temptation
to steal a bone from the empire of skulls,
and hear the screech and whoosh of trains
that float on rubber tires
along the tracks of the Metro.
You need to fly
in the high swings of a muddy funfair
that you wander into
pitched on the Rivoli side
along the palace gardens of the Tuileries.
Close buildings blur, but it is clear across the river
as you whirl around and around,
dangling in a damp metal seat.
You need to find the same restaurant
with the crabs and cockles,
the pastry with apricot sprinkles,
the crypts beneath the green leaves
and the music-box of the wind,
the drunken stumble home
under an umbrella.
Across the courtyard was where Picasso had his studio,
and before that, Balzac lived here,
marked by gold letters on a stone plaque.
There is a code to open the heavy doors.
The floral wallpaper camouflages the hidden closets,
and the deco taps are shaped like mermaids.
You fall into a conversation on the terrace
with strangers who speak no language,
and exchange numbers.
You end up at the Dali museum on the poster instead,
to discover swans inverted as elephants,
melting timepieces and bronze eggs.
Even the girl with the half-shaved head
and bandaged wrist stares
at the canvas like it was a mirror.
I blindfold your eyes with my palms
and walk you onto an island in squeaky traffic
so that something inspired by Napoleon
will be a surprise.
on the jaw of a cliff,
in the way of the wind,
I thought to gorge on
Like the tinny taste of life
in a scuba diver’s rubber gag,
overflowing with maps to poetry.
Deep sin reveals deep secrets.
Breezes drop, men stumble;
The purest saints
hesitate before heaven,
clear their throats before a word
I choose this bloody knowledge:
The whirlwind pool I did not dare to glimpse;
You always pay the lady, not the pimps.
And there, I thought
to hold my bursting breath,
to abstain, like angels swooping down, from death.