Herman Leonard exhibition,
La Grande Halle, Porte de la Villette, Paris 1990

The red mill is still
crowds fill the bandstand
and me, I felt overcome
kneeling before photos

the way they knelt in Notre Dame,
in Sacre Coeur.
Images of my gone gods
my patron saints

source of mommy's hummed reveries
who peopled daddy's tales
of fast life and past glories
always tainted, sainted by the near miss
or martyred by the kiss of caught up

all gone and what did I give them?
We shared some world, same time
To know the music, touch aural hems,
what did I want

alone in this rude foreign city?
I wanted to light a candle
before these pictures
I wanted to kneel I wanted to pray

to dark sparkling shoes
by china cup with the perfect lemon
his tea still shimmers hot
raiment shadow, ritual victual
these ghosts of a chance of a glory
that mine created holy holy holy

O I kneel, before Duke on stage
shafts of light cleaving across
the black blank caressing his back
a piano blooms before him
the feral face of Max
next to the melancholy round
of Brown, lost too soon
young men sharp in their cool age

Billie's blouse had fabric-covered buttons
Sara leans, her sound a trajectory of grace
Ella's sweat, live rivulets
what most remains through ubiquitous

smoke is their sound, that they played
shaped life through air, that some
blind spark urged them on
to mount again the stage.

c 1995 Akua Lezli Hope