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Hautes Études and Mudra.

Two poems




Haute Études

I think of Paul Ricoeur.
Five years in a German
prisoner of war camp,
translating Heidegger.

There he introduced
Jaspers to Dufrenne.
Lectured on Socrates,
Descartes, Freud.

At the same time, in
Provence, Beckett writes a novel in the dark.

In Paris, Patrick Modiano’s
father earns millions with
the Rue Lauriston gang.
Cocteau eats well and laughs with Arno Breker.

Once Vichy takes control,
Lacan walks into the local Gestapo office,
demanding the Nazi file on his wife,

who is Jewish. He gets it. She survives.
He does not publish—
unlike Sartre—during the occupation.

Eventually, all stories will be lost.
What will become of us,
the ones who did not love,

or thought we loved,
but were drowned in silence,
naïve, erased. I am a reader.

During May 68,
one of Ricoeur’s students
upturned a garbage can
over his head.

Ricoeur’s response,
create ten new masterpieces.
I see him writing.
Pen inside fist.


After the seventh stroke,
I asked my mother
to deepen her breath,
inhale and exhale
to the sound of Om,
activating the prana,
pathways of breathing.

I asked her to form
with her hands
a mudra,
fingers enmeshed,
forefinger tips inverted,
pointing downward.

Heart rate near zero,
doctors saying she could
no longer hear, no longer respond,
I panicked, said it all in a rush.

I love you and I lived
like I hated you.

As I held her left hand
she yanked it free, spinning
her arm counterclockwise,
elbow pressed into bed.
Then she let it fall,
returning herself
back into my hands.

MICHAEL LONDRA writes poetry, fiction, and criticism. His work has been published in The Blue Mountain Review, spoKe, Boog City, and will soon appear in Arts Fuse. His essays exploring the legacy of Delmore Schwartz—including the impact of anti-Semitism on his life and career—are included in New Studies in Delmore Schwarz, edited by Ben Mazer and forthcoming from MadHat Press. He lives in Manhattan.

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