Under the Influence by Andrena Zawinski


Under the Influence
(A poetic after the cellist on Place des Vosges)
by Andrena Zawinski

Here. Take this photograph. It is Paris.

There. There is a woman turning sheets
of paged music. Look. She’s getting ready,
her legs hugging the cello bottom,
fingers poised at the polished sleek of its neck.
Listen. A wheeze and wail of gendarmes
are racing the square for some spy
movie chase scene you’ll see.

Go away now—through that door behind her.
It is the house of Hugo. Touch that desk there
autographed for charity, Picasso and Stein
side-by-side. Come back now. Come here.
She’s about to pull in dusk air on strings.

Take a seat at the curbstone. Rummage
through your bag—through de Gaulle stamps,
artificial tears, baume pour les lèvres.
Make notes on the post-it pad. Give her a name.
Call her Renee of Vivien. Take her photograph.

Wander into the droopy-eyed flash. Wonder
if she composes under the influence
of red wine, French rain, shadow light
some herstoriography of the real.

But don’t insult her with the loose change
of your vacation franc. Give her
what she wants, an audience. There is no
subscription fee. The series runs each night.
Performances will not be sold out.

Take this photograph. It is modern art,
under the influence
of a dialectic whose boundaries
are yet to be determined.

SOURCE: “Under the Influence” first appeared in Her Mark Calendar from Chicago’s Woman Made Gallery and appears in the author’s collection Traveling in Reflected Light.

PHOTO: Place des Vosges, Paris, France. Photo by beanitwoman.


NOTE: Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris, France. Located in Le Marais district, it straddles the dividing line between the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Originally known as Place Royale, Place des Vosges was built by Henri IV from 1605 to 1612. A true square (140 meters × 140 meters), it embodied one of the first European programs of royal city planning .

PHOTO: Aerial view of Place des Vosges, Paris, France. Photo by Des Racines et des Ailes.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Wherever I have traveled, I have loved the street performers, especially those like the woman at the cello in this poem, so very passionate and skilled. Everything became part of her outdoor concert, from police sirens to loose change to nearby tourist spots, but with her center stage on the sidewalk caring only to be heard.

PHOTO: Street performer cellist. Photo by Jan Plywacz.

zawinski3ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrena Zawinski’s poetry has received numerous awards for lyricism, form, spirituality, and social concern, several of them Pushcart Prize nominations. Her latest book is Landings from Kelsay Books; others are Something About from Blue Light Press (a PEN Oakland Award) and Traveling in Reflected Light from Pig Iron Press (a Kenneth Patchen Prize), along with several chapbooks. Her poetry has previously appeared on Poetry and Places. 

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