The Man Who Remembered
I imagine Marcel on one of his nighttime excursions
to some den of iniquity or other, swathed in coats and
blankets, eating mashed potatoes in the back of the car.
The boy in the brothel is pale and slim, or tan and muscled
The man looks, but does not touch, just fumbles under the sheet.
Who knows, perhaps he remembers a girl from his youth?
His driver, once a lover, takes him back to where he belongs,
to the cork-lined sickroom strewn with manuscripts and proofs
where he swallows some pills that will keep him awake until dawn.
Minutely he reconstructs moment after moment,
smell and emotion, heartbeat by heartbeat,
thought by thought, into a brilliant mosaic
of fallen petals, depicting a past that is not his own.
French author Marcel Proust (1871–1922) is best known for his monumental novel, À la recherche du temps perdu (“In Search of Lost Time”). Among the themes explored in its seven volumes are memory, the nature of art, and homosexuality. Living in an era where “inverts” were frowned upon, the eccentric Proust himself was not out, except to his closest friends. Despite his poor health he had been a brilliant student who started contributing to literary magazines at an early age. Through classmates at his élite school, the Lycée Condorcet in Paris, he gained access to aristocratic circles and high-society salons, which would provide him with a wealth of material for his masterpiece.