THE MATISSE BAG
by D. M. Norsworthy
A white woman in a red jacket
walks a white poodle in a red sweater. Pigeons fly from a child waving
her velvet arms. The man speaks Italian to the boy photographing the
church. "Chelsea," leave those pigeons alone!"
the woman cries.
Chippy inhales New York. Sidewalk trembles through her boots.
The man in front of her
turns. "Do you have your tickets?"
"Yes. Is this the line
"I believe it is the
line for everything. For what time are your tickets?"
A smile creases the corners
of his eyes. "Do you live here?"
"No," she smiles.
"But I love coming here in the fall."
"Ah, yes. Where are
"Everywhere. Oregon. What about you?"
"Everywhere. I fly
for Swissair. My home is near
Geneva. Have you been there?"
The Swiss are so clean,
"I've always wanted
"You should let me
fly you there." He folds his hands together. "What do you
"I'm a writer. I teach a little."
The pilot turns toward the
slow procession now ambling again up 53rd Street. Chippy stares at the soft, creased
leather of his flight jacket, his thick white hair. I am waiting for
my husband. Henry. Henry, my husband, I suppose I should say—
The line stops. He turns
back. "Have you read St. Exupery?"
"Antoine de St. Exupery.
The Little Prince."
Her hand flies up. "Wind,
Sand and Stars! "'Perfection is attained not when there is nothing
more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.' Something
like that. I copied it on the back of a postcard of La danse."
She smiles apologetically. "I'm sorry, my French is not good."
"Oh, it is fine,"
he says. "Have you seen La danse?"
"The one here,"
says Chippy. "Three times."
"They are both here
today. Such a thing may never happen again."
"I have not learned
your name," he says.
He laughs. "I imagined
a legendary name. Alcestis. Penelope. Desdemona."
He hands her a small leather
book. "May I have your address?"
The pen hangs motionless
from her hand. Then quickly she writes, "Chippy
Bowles," and all the rest.
"Purewater Bay," he reads. "How clean
She cranes her neck to see
between the heads. The woman's nose is green.
In the world of NO GREEN
NOSE, is a rule: NO GREEN NOSES.
He left the world of NO
Created the world of GREEN
And God saw that GREEN NOSE
was . . .
"A dream," she
says, and steps between the heads.
He steps with her. "That
you have had?"
"Ah," says the
pilot, touching her arm: Ces nymphes, je les veux perpetuer.
Leur incarnat leger, qu'il voltige
de sommeils touffus.
Aimai-je un reve?"
But the music, rising, floating,
ash into the whole-toned air where they are; where is that? No such place, and yet I know of such a—
"There you are!"
Suddenly her feet, her calves,
her simple breasts, weight again, sagging to the pale color of . .
"Look," she says. "Le bonheur de vivre."
says Henry. "Or an orgy. A lot like an orgy."
"Did you see The Green
"The quintessence of
"Oh my," she says.
Henry fades into the colorless
thick of heads and backs, heads and backs . . .
says the pilot. "The artist repented."
She turns. "Of what."
A tall, wide woman steps
in front of her. Crimson wedges glow between the heads.
"Blue," he says.
Backs and heads, backs and
She goes up on her tiptoes.
"Here." The gentle
pressure of his hand guides her into a parting of people. She gasps.
His fingers rest lightly
on her back. "Matisse could have stayed with blue. It would have
been a fine work. But you might not have gasped."
"I suppose not everything
need make one gasp."
"No. But how wonderful
when something does."
She turns to answer. But
he has slipped away.
The most beautiful painting
in the world.
Now look, and look, and
look, and . . .
Suddenly at a moment not
unlike any other,
Simply smile and bow and
move on to the next work.
Stepping into a clearing
between shoulders, she waits for the blue painting to tell me . .
. It presses forward from the wall. She leans back till she feels
herself teetering, barely hanging on.
"Preparing for the
dance," says the man in the yellow tie.
"Ah, of course,"
answers his lady.
These people know so much.
But this one dull woman,
room to room, window after window seeking the thing painted toward
and around, the Here! We are Here! This is what it is.
Five dancers flying round
But it shall not be so with
Music sits alone.
The one who is great among
you shall be having a hard conversation in his
While the handless clock
The apples turn.
The one-eyed boy plays
a sharp piano.
Many faces and many breasts:
But few there be that
The spirit is color, and
the flesh is . . .
Full of grace
With viewers behind, and
viewers ahead, she comes alone and stunned with seeing, to a cool,
She yawns and rubs her eyes
and yawns and stretches her arms and passes through into the high,
Vermilion, magenta, purple,
cobalt, green, orange, black, and turquoise, and colors Chippy had
not imagined together, and colors she can't name, ring down the light
like trumpets in a cathedral.
"It looks like the
beginning," says the pilot.
And something in her going
up, and up.
© D. M. Norsworthy