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Marne's Cafe: The Mystery in the Reverie

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Marne's Cafe: The Mystery in the Reverie
Marcel Antonio paints me a Portrait. I first met Marcel to exchange gifts: I to give him my book with another painting of his in the cover, and he to present me with this painting. | Marcel Antonio

By Marne Kilates

Omniscient artist, in a moment acute
Or clairvoyant, or perhaps merely
Indulgent, gifted me with a curious portrait:

I am in a bar or reading room, in unfamiliar
Company: it is a puzzle in a riddle, mystery
Inside a reverie. I’m calling it Marne’s Café.

One can begin with the colors, yielded
By the artist’s peculiar way with tints and
Pigments, and the almost absent brush strokes

That create the fuzz of surfaces, the downy
Texture of the fabrics and drapery, the fluff
Of my green sweater as I pore over a thin

Book that might be a diary. Or the shirt
Of the man facing me (my fingers brushing
His nose if there were no depth of space

Between us), with that same plush
Behind his black necktie. He flicks his
Cigarette into an ash tray, his lush

Brown hair combed back, a contrast
To my gray, still as thick and wavy. Our eyes
Never meet: perhaps he is my past trying

To divine the future, but he cannot
See me at all. May be that's all there is to it
Between him and me.

Between him and me:
A miniature train on a railroad, an old locomotive
Going nowhere, comes straight from my childhood—

The artist again configuring me
(But not my neck-tied past in the industry
Of mad men looking straight through me).

Behind us: three women who resemble
No one I know. The one in red dress
Of deep shade, white-dotted, inspects

A sheet with the drawing of a chalice;
Opposite her on the canvas (but her back
Turned towards her), behind the man in tie,

Another girl in a yellow ochre strapped
Shift is similarly absorbed by the tomato in her
Hand; she has crossed her legs and we have
A glimpse of thigh and she is probably tall.

Behind her, off-center right,
Another girl, facing the window, her back
Towards us, has opened her notebook
To a place marked by red ribbon.

In her royal blue three-quarter sweatshirt
She languorously combs her hair with her
Fingers or she has simply rested her forearm

On top of her head so she can resume
Her reading as she is about to take
A sip of her coffee.

Behind the girl
With the chalice sheet, a bearded man
In black hat, face half-hidden (who looks

Like a poet I know), casts his piratical gaze
Perhaps at the viewer or again sees through us.
Between these duos at either side of canvas,

A brown Mayon Volcano (again from my
Childhood) rises under an aquamarine sky
Daubed with curls of cloud and a filigree
Of trees.

Is Mayon—bald, spent, burnt—
Eroded by drought or the monsoon?
Is the globe thoroughly warmed,

Or abandoned by typhoons? Or both,
As the meteorologists and conservationists
Predict? The leaves are not moving. No one

Is looking at anybody. All are occupied by
Chalice, tomato, a page bookmarked,
A perhaps-diary. Untitled entries
To a diurnal journal:

The undefined,
The unlisted, the un-chronicled.
The averted faces gaze inward,
Perhaps to the unintended
In the lines of composition
The patterns of design
The points of intersection
The code within the frame
The vectors of Vetruvius
The core of the koan
The kernel of ekphrasis
The matter of the metaphor
The pith of the periphrasis
The pitfall of the paraphrase
The enigma of the ellipsis

(Marcel is not telling)

(10 November 2019; rev. 25 December 2021)

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