Paris Opera

        in memory of the wonderful time with Dad in Paris

Persistence prompts the gatekeeper to let me in
the Perfume Garden where perennials bloom
and beneath a pepper tree the beekeeper
is reading Saint-John Perse's Birds.

While grasshoppers chirp away, he tells me
this poem was inspired by Braque's paintings.
Ah! those birds soaring in supernatural glory
in dream-light of pearls and sparkling sperms.

He prefers Mu Chi's Persimmons & Dali's Hypercubus
to the perspectives in Leonardo's Last Supper
and talks of life's winged purposes— the universe
perpetually flowing deeper into our soul,
pervading hush of pure perfection performed
on us from the unknown persuasions of lovers.

When I ask about purity, he says simply
unwavering perception of God and suggests
I read Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed,
Rousseau's Peregrination of a Solitary Dreamer,
Perceval's Grail Quest and Sir Gawain's Perilous Bed.
We're in a time of peril and prosperity is not in sight.

Perhaps the period that ends this Kali Yuga
is here for the enlightened to perceive
New Periods— Perhaps you're going too!
But Hope, that feathered spirit perching
in the soul only hums of temperance.

Perhaps tiny crystals would persevere like
warm pearls, ripened fruit of experience
from the pure seed source of spring.
"Am I dust particles in sunlight or the round sun?"
he whispers a song "By experience I know them".

Let us pray for the perfection of beauty—
my love, my dove, my perfect one,
the perceived grace given unto us the perfume delight
of the heart. Ah! childhood dreams of Persian grass,
Peruvian plains, the Porta Sole of Perugia where
Perugino taught Raphael to paint adorable angels.

"Perhaps I might tell more if you keep it a secret"
he whispers. When I nod, he shows me not a prepared
parchment of emperors, but papers yellowed with age—
Perish your thoughts— the first step of yoga.

Let peerless Pure Consciousness permeate your mind
so you may ascend the Upper Waters to Purusha,
the Supreme Ultimate. He tells me that Perun
is the Sun God worshipped by the Slavs,
Persica means Sun, started the Persian Empire,
Peru is the land of "Children of the Sun",
and Parisii founded Paris, the City of Lights.

Who is this worshipper of Nature, this beekeeper
telling me about Perseid showers from the constellation
of Perseus, finding the Pole Star from the Big Dipper
and the Apples of Hesperides hidden in Paradise,
that Hyperion was father of Helios the Sun God,
that Hesperus the Morning Star heralds the dawn,
and Persephone is supreme as Queen of deep sleep.

Am I one of the seven cave sleepers of Ephesus
still dreaming or performing in a Paris opera
singing Bach's Cantata: Sleepers Awake?

Wake up!

O dear soul remember the thunder of perfect mind,
the perfected vision where desires ripen in paradise.

If the Sun-God Perun is père un— One Father,
where is my father? Suddenly it dawns
upon me that summer day August 1979
coming out of the Paris Opera Metro—
a stranger asked "Père et fils?" and offered
to snap a picture of me and Dad together.

Dad was here fifty years ago at the Sorbonne
doing a history thesis on "Irish Rebellion"
while I'm here predicting protein folding.

And three days before Dad died at 98,
he pointed to this photo and another
at Café Paix, saying "fifteen francs"—
my coffee treat he still remembered.

And I think of James Joyce's "Ecce Puer":
"A child was born; An old man gone"
and now almost thirty years from that moment
at the Paris Opera— a quilt of a hundred suns
is woven for mon père
this poem— this child is born.

              — Peter Y. Chou
                   Mountain View, 3-16-2009