Toulouse and Jane

Allez les enfants. Un fois En Plus. Un Autre Dance

(Jane Avril, age 73, in 1942, at her last birthday party)


Moving, shaking, wiggling like a bag of worms;

Wild,  tremulous as the demonstrants of St. Vitus,

an orchid in frenzy;

And like that embodiment of Orpheus’ affections,

she is become the cynosure of an edgy era,

the borderline between We-Do-Not-Care

and the bitterly modern



Beauty, I think, is in the beholder;

More than likely it is a thought

closely held, obsessed, the artist

developing his concepts with line, with color,

repeatedly, ten, one hundred,

perhaps even a thousand penciled drawings,

until its form has been satisfied, burin-engraved,

wedded into a cellular syncytium,

wherein nose, lips, a pair of eyes,

are as inseparable as a synaptic conjunction,

one with the other,

in a universal “vicus of recirculation”;

And out of it emerges the familiar,

the figure, for example, of a Jane Avril,

not actually the reality of that flighty, twisty, dancer

on stage at the Moulin Rouge, neither “L’Etrange” nor Mad Jane,

but a Jane Avril as conceived by Toulouse Lautrec;

More him perhaps than her.


But is that how we know her now,

His Melancholy Muse,

so far from the halls of the Salpetriere

from cloistered cells of wandering minds,

of rocks on land, of Sisyphean failures of soul,

as austere as the Queen Mother,

protected, withdrawn, by gloves and furs

and half-closed eyes in a blue-green coat,

as severe as that club was frivolous?


And how far is far

from that sweet-young-thing of twenty two

you can see in the photos?

For the transformation at the entrance

(or is it the exit?) has been completed,

and, though still, though tight as a drum, for this moment,

she is like some monumental ocean liner

ready for departure,

those on deck waving their handkerchiefs,

Farewell, this inwardly aging woman

seems to be saying, You shan’t see me again,

At least until tomorrow.