Angie Estes introduces Diane Louie’s “Visiting Gertrude Stein in Père-Lachaise”
Diane Louie’s poem approaches Stein’s question/statement which is real what you do now or what you used to do by constructing what will remain: words and the spaces, rhythms, and repetitions—like the beating of a heart—among them. Miraculous, how the poem brings to life its own “quivering space,” rising from the weight of words placed in white space, how the act of reading—like that of writing—becomes both what you do now and what you used to do. The body of the poem itself is finally, like Stein’s grave, a square, gray, engraved block, which a reader will visit again and again, the reader’s eye focused in place like the weight of a small stone. And Louie lays her own brilliant koan alongside Stein’s: “You never think it’s going to be like this. You never think the thinking ends.”
Visiting Gertrude Stein In Père-Lachaise
which is real what you do now or what you used to do
Her stone is not the largest. Polished gray, edges square. Her name engraved. One could stand on it. One could sit. Others have placed stones upon the stone. Gravity would do as well. Bones don’t expatriate from earth. But a name. Among so many names. Every heart once beating on its own. Trees weep. Seeds scatter to the gravel path, perfect seeds. Imperfect seeds. The wars we have seen. The sky is so convincing, but wars? Each replaced by the one which follows. You never think it’s going to be like this. You never think the thinking ends. I am sitting on a wooden bench. For the view, for the vale between. I have walked to her door. I have walked away. Atoms, all atoms. All quivering space.
— originally published in FIELD
note: the epigraph and phrase “trees weep” are from Gertrude Stein’s
Wars I Have Seen