Friday, March 8, 2013

Poet Mueller and Painter Delvaux, "The Village of the Mermaids"

Lisel Mueller

Paul Delvaux: The Village 
of the Mermaids
Oil on canvas, 1942
Who is that man in black,
away from us into the distance? 

The painter, they say, took a long time

finding his vision of the world. 

The mermaids, if that is what they are 

under their full-length skirts, 

sit facing each other

all down the street, more of an alley, 

in front of their gray row houses. 

They all look the same, like a fair-haired 

order of nuns, or like prostitutes 

with chaste, identical faces. 

How calm they are, with their vacant eyes,

their hands in laps that betray nothing. 

Only one has scales on her dusky dress. 

It is 1942; it is Europe,

and nothing fits. The one familiar figure

is the man in black approaching the sea,
and he is small and walking away from us. 

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