Downright French Revolution of the Senses

By Gianmarc Manzione
Originally published in The Southern Review 42.3 (2006): 479-480.

To stagger, to arrive all of a sudden and completely

without warning

at the wisdom of the body—

the kind of thing you usually have to be in the mood for

but this was different,

because it was nothing—a stalk of steam

slinking out of the daily kettle,

the spiced and cranberry tea

which was, of all things, what he loved

enough to wake for,

running his hands across the coffee table’s marble veneer,

which today was not a smoothness

but an event, not so much a feeling

as a comprehension, a clarity

so new he almost wanted

to spend the day just feeling

the surfaces of things:

the glassy covers of paperbacks,

the finished throats of banisters,

the cylinders of wood they slept on—

probably the beginnings of madness

or, then again, maybe not—

maybe madness was so many mornings of movement

through the quiet of the house,

which this time was not the quiet of snow on the ground

but of a single unsealed letter

forgotten in the sender’s drawer—

never once stopping to realize that

the capacity for surprise—

the only thing he ever really asked to hold on to in this life—

had actually been at his command all along:

the firmness of rinsed grapes in the colander,

for instance; hues of violet and teal,

the way they snap and burst in the mouth,

that cold and sudden tang.