Monday, December 12, 2011

Poetry Monday

Today's poem is actually one of mine. I wrote it many years ago but Tintin has been on my mind. There's a reason for that: I saw the Spielberg film yesterday. Saw it in French because I was in Montreal, but more on that later.

Here's the poem. It was originally published in Slant:

Tintin in Love

The one predicament the hero of my childhood
Was never in. Avalanche, yes.
Gun fire. Goat-attack. The fiery Sahara.
Sacrificial pyre. Rising tides. He cheated death,
Always with a measureless, stoic bravery;
Only sometimes would his creator ink
A clock-dial of sweat popping off his brow.
But never the quicksand of true love.

I would trail my mother down hallways
Boasting of his exploits. She'd consent
To look at the tattered books; I'd show
Her favorites from the paneled pages: Tintin
Snared on the sabotaged, runaway train;
Adrift on makeshift raft; dropped out of plane.
"Where are the women?" she'd ask,
But I didn't know how he needed them.

Tintin and his entourage were sexless.
Rainy-day saver of his rapt attention
For clues and hieroglyphs, for the smuggler,
The cutpurse, his only devotion was for
Diametrical, drunken Captain Haddock,
Oblivious, savant Calculus.
The closest he ever came to the hurt
Of romance was for Chang, the Chinese boy

He eventually saves from the barren peaks of Tibet.
Answerless for my mother, inevitably I discovered
The basis for the question. Women appeared—
Parted lips, shirts ripped—in the cover-art
Of the Ian Fleming novels I started reading.
Inside, the women drank, undressed,
Let Bond hold the fullness of their breasts.
Soon, I learned that girls wanted to kiss too,

And I embarked on all of Salinger, Hemingway,
Then, later, Mailer, Roth, Updike.
I could unhook bras one-handed by then,
Knew there were places to touch that led,
Like arcane tunnels, to inevitable other places.
In college I read less, experienced more.
The books I tripped over were assigned: ruins,
Toppled greatness, furred over by the undergrowth.

Yet reading had prepped me well. Years later—
End-of-college years, work years, sad years,
Then love, eventually, and a quieter mind—
I read a biography of HergĂ©.­
It seemed love was not so simply left out,
Just hard to find. Tintin in Tibet—those white spaces,
The missing boy—was HergĂ©'s answer
To the death dreams of his late years.

Maybe too much information, but I re-read
Each adventure: Tintin had a filled house, the same cast
Of friends with which to face each hour.
The rooms he woke to every day
Were cluttered up with his own history.
Survivor of the ice fields, the jungle beast,
The poisoned dart, the circling sharks,
Other perils of the heart, he always made it home.

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