The Midnight Quartet of Marcel Proust

He had paid us a visit before.

It was 1916, in November,

After our performance of Cesar Franck's Quartet,

He silently materialized,

Like a thief or a banker,

Offering too much money for our talent.

Now, he was here again, at my midnight door.

Like a tax collector is

Golden eyes evaluated my small room,

The twisted chairs, and barren cupboards.

He begged me for a performance

Of Franck's music so he could write.

The guns and airplanes of war blasted

The quiet of the night for years,

And his writing became noisy and cheap.

We drove and woke my three friends,

Two violinists and the cellist.

We played for him all night.

He lay on the bed,

In his vaulted room, swimming

In manuscript pages like ledger sheets,

Rolling in a rich man's agony, until we stopped.

Then he fried of medallions of potato in butter

And poured five bottles of shining champagne,

In our glasses and on the floor and the table.

We played the quartet again

And after we were done,

Just before dawn minted another morning,

He pulled bills wadded like tissue out of his writing desk

And stuffed them in our instrument cases

Like packing for our journey home

Four darkened taxis

Waited for us in the blacked-out street

Their meters tolling the fare.

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© 1990 - Scott Lawrence Lawson