European Diary: Brasserie Le Luco, Boulevard St.-Michel; morning, Saturday; June 26, 2004; Paris, France

The Jewish Museum in Paris is located in a beautiful old hotel particulier in the Marais. Instead of being a catch-all or try to exhaust the catalogue of the Jewish experience, it focused on the experience of Jews through their art, focusing on France. So you move from beautiful early medieval grave markers to paintings by many of the Jewish painters who belonged to what became known as the Ecole de Paris, including Chagall, Modigliani, Kisling and Soutine, as well as Lissitzky and others.

After that, especially in the same day, the Picasso Museum was a bit much. I was pretty unmoved à la John Berger with his facility with different styles. His eyes, as a way to focus onto a time of great creativity and camaraderie and change, were always more interesting to me, and I love him as a Spaniard, and, in his way, as a poet, and you can see and learn much about painting itself from him, but really, only a few odd things moved me – the painting of the bathers at the entrance; the painting of the dancing couple, using the same face as one of the bathers, vacant, or vacated, but with the violet halo around his head; and especially the models for the Apollinaire memorial. To be fair, my mind and heart and vision were pretty rammed full after the Jewish Museum and Paris itself.


Rereading “A Moveable Feast” is as disheartening as the Picasso museum in one specific way: that nexus of people doing good work, with an affordable life around them, when that type of work still had the power to effect people, may be gone for good.


Les Portes du cimitière

If I could roll the corners of the sky

To pipe down the blue air or bend

It like a sheet of metal, tint it yellow

Like an angel’s sleeve, then I could indicate

The presence in these all-too-real fields

That we move through of their hidden maker.

But this machine of mine, this sled of wire,

Which pushes through the stars, burning at

The edges with blue fire, skidding into

Constellations, is far too unreliable

And crude for such an operation. I beg

Forgiveness of the dead as of the living

And leave them in the abler hands of painters.

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