This canvas on a canvas is named after the father of geometry: Euclidean walks – parallelism and paradox – through an improbable (but not impossible) city. Loulou loves this one because he loves to walk. Every day. Every season.
Today, Loulou and Georgette sit with the master in the study, listening to him read from a letter sent by their dear friend Harry in the States: “I am sorry you couldn’t have been in my office last week to witness an interesting scene when two Soviet personages were overcome with rage upon seeing your pictures. ‘That’s not art,’ they cried. ‘They’re just tricks to take people in!’ There were two of them because, as you know, they always travel in pairs, like policemen or like swans in the park (indeed, in my birthplace, cops are called swans), fearful as they are of being exposed to the imperialist threat when alone, and also anxious to avoid being accused of having been involved in any kind of one-to-one contact with any imperialist representative.”
The roof of the tower in the picture has a twin in the distance that shimmers to Loulou the geometry of friendship, the geometry of love. The unstable dyad of the tower calls to his mind the partnership of the Soviet operatives – perhaps it’s a mirage – and the stable triad of his and Magritte’s and Georgette’s household: the art of being part of something.
“The mind does not necessarily always manifest itself through fine ideas,” the master says, setting the letter on the table. “It almost always manifests itself in very small things. Which I feel confirms its mystery.”
Loulou tries to hold himself back from asking, but can’t: “Small things like me?” “Like you precisely,” says the master. He casts Loulou a wink, and Loulou catches its meaning: I know what you’re thinking: Love should not need reassurances, but if it does, then love should grant them.
LA SAVEUR DES LARMES
The master’s pancreas unravels inside him. It’s bad, pretty bad. At times, he hangs his head to the side in shut-eyed pain: the attitude of the leaf-bird in maybe his saddest painting. Loulou imagines the master must feel like that: a caterpillar eating holes that will never close in his torso.
But they’re none of them here to focus on that. They’re here to do a little business, but mostly to sightsee and eat. Water water, waiter waiter. From the seat of a gondola – with the master, Georgette, and the master’s dealer, Alexander Iolas – Loulou spots Ed Ruscha on foot on the street. Iolas is his dealer too. Loulou barks and Ruscha waves. They meet on dry land and head to the Piazza San Marco, Magritte with his camera in tow.
Ruscha suggests Cipriani for lunch. But the maître d’ says, “I’m sorry, you can’t bring dogs in here.” The master says, “Well, then, that’s it. Wherever I go, Loulou goes.” People often question the master and Georgette’s devotion to Loulou. “Surely, your little pooch won’t care,” says the maître d’. “Tie him up here and we’ll keep an eye on him.” But Loulou would care; he would care a great deal. “He would care very much,” the master says, turning away, as the maître d’ says, “Wait!” After such back and forth, they are led to a nice table outside in the garden.
Is love only love if its symmetry is perfect? Some people have no comprehension of the endless insult of such a question.
Though the anecdote has come to a happy end, Loulou’s mood for the rest of the day – how typically Venetian! – broods in melancholy. Loulou can tell without even tasting it: the water in the canals has the flavor of tears.
Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. Co-editor with Eric Plattner of The Selected Writings of René Magritte, forthcoming from Alma Books (UK) and University of Minnesota Press (U.S.) in 2016, she is also the author of seven books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including, most recently, the novel O, Democracy! (2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (2012). Her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2017.