Patricia Spears Jones

Reading Julio Cortázar after turning 70
October 24, 2021 Spears Jones Patricia

Reading Julio Cortázar after turning 70


Years ago, there was your story about a man named John Howell.
John Howell, the one I knew, read this story
knowing that there was no way
that Cortázar had heard of him and so he knew
He was not inspiring.
Thus, an Anglo named protagonist slumps into invisibility—
Jumbled jazz steps mocking robust gargoyles seen by earnest youth
The crosses born in old books are dropped here
There in dreams fit for Surrealists on holiday.
What if the spire was a foil as in fencing
Bird a drum as in microtones
And the driven snow is cleverly disguised as salt.
Can I call you Julio?  Would you allow me to conjure
Your handsome face in the bowl of my two hands?
Warping demons of vague collapses eroticized a hemisphere
Of New World imagination, the New Worlds’ misdeeds fraught
Along the lines of cocaine in the mansion near the Tour Eiffel
Exile is always a bitch. Tart walking boulevards, scarred but steady
Somehow refusing to give in to the give up.
El maestro strokes one letter after the other, dangerous tempo
Like the tango, wrapped in rules demanding rupture.
Barrels flare fires on the Bowery, where winos sing & policemen shuffle
It’s the 1970s.  And Paris is in the distance and Buenos Aires is
Floating –cloud city home of generals, divas, balladeers flung against
Prison walls.
In that earlier book, is there poetry in it, the auteur leaves for the Continent
And it is not Africa.
Julio, your acquaintance with the fantastic, the heart too heavy to share
Takes a parallel road, the one where the riders are thrilling, handsome, movie star
Ready, but that is the illusionary traverse, the floating countryside.
Where is your
jazzed lair –the white cat in his white hat, shimmering horn
the jazzed liar, levity in the soulless smoke, a miserly tease,
heart beating and night vision eyes.
Hooves across cobble stones, the Marais tender
Crying for dark eyed woman’s plaintive song—like North America
Sustained with tobacco and lies.

Patricia Spears Jones is a poet, anthologist, cultural critic, and activist. She is author of A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems, is widely anthologized and was the recipient of Poets & Writers 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize. She  is an Emeritus Fellow of the Black Earth Institute and organizer of American Poets Congress.