when gertrude married alice

Eve Robillard

Eve Robillard’s poems are a paean to Art (with a capital “A”) and the artistically focused life. Robillard reveals art as transport (the chapbook begins and ends with transcontinental journeys to/from cultural centers), a means of lift-off into ecstatic perception where life is brighter, bolder, more energized. The rarified atmosphere is seductively romantic, the pursuit exciting, the fulfillment somewhat ambivalent. The artful, after all, may be touched but rarely possessed. Robillard explores these themes in imaginative, full-dimensioned vignettes, peopling her poems with aspiring art lovers and great talents. She is sophisticated and literate, charming and whimsical, a light, clear voice with a tender affinity for the aesthetic consciousness, an understanding of its compulsions, a sympathy for its haunted longings. A young man delights in a French interlude with his art-student lover (“I love you my mona/my lisa, my cabbage, my gargoyle, Degas’ little dancer/in dawn’s ragged gown”) only to realize as he “dron[es] home” to his ordinary “tick-tock apartment” that she is courting a more exotic/erotic partner — the art scene with all its mysterious magnetism. An aficionado viewing Proust’s tidy, narrow bed at the Musée Carnavelet is unprepared for its modesty since the temper of Proust’s writing had evoked very different expectations. “I imagined it red-/scarlet and crimson, velvet and satin…/the canopied bed heavy…/with unfulfilled desire — the kiss withheld,/footsteps dying away on the stairs…” Indeed, the devotee feeds on artistic magnificence. A $5,000 roll-top desk, for example, is an objet d’art worthy of homage. This is no mere work surface but a powerhouse of life-altering potential. “Those larger/ drawers, it seems to me, are full of un-penned/novels…/To lower its great/wooden top is to bring down some final/curtain–Anna Karenina stepping onto the tracks,/Bogart alone on a rainy runway; the heroine/of a Puccini opera dead or dying.” Robillard’s poems richly celebrate art as portal, art as release from the mundane, art bringing us nearer to the unattainable sublime. “I like this one, I like/how the woman stands at the window…/the sky so wide/so impossibly blue.”

Eve Robillard’s great-grandfather (seven times removed) was sent from an orphanage in Paris to Canada during the reign of Louis XIV; thus her interest in all things French.

Her poetry chapbook everything happens twice was published by Madison’s Fireweed Press; her work also appeared inMonserrat Review, Madison Review, Wisconsin Poets at the Elvehjem, Chicago’s Midway Review, Great River Review, Sheepshead Review, A Room of One’s Own Anthology, Wisconsin Academy Review, and other publications. A former writing teacher at UW-Green Bay, Eve writes for both adults and children. She lives in Madison and is employed as a Children’s Librarian at Middleton Public Library.

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Jet Lag

He flies over the ocean to see his girl, his Sorbonne
girl, his ginger-skinned girl waiting for him in the City

of Light. Everywhere river and almost-spring gardens,
everywhere bridges and rainy statues. Streets going

nowhere, streets going on all night. I love you my mona
my lisa, my cabbage, my gargoyle, Degas’ little dancer

in dawn’s ragged gown. But on the third day she
picks up her books, tells him she needs to study:

she adores this town, she’s not coming home in May, she’s
going to stay all summer. Lowers her morning-calm eyes.

He’s all right in the cab, all right on the plane droning
him home in only three hours American-key in his lock now

his tick-tock apartment, shiver his shadow, his need
to sleep. Then with a tiredness washing over and

over him and through his raveling bones
he begins to know.