George Vance ~ A Poem

gentlemanwatermarkA stumbled-upon poem, a Paris quarter

Happening onto the Anne Frank Garden
I see a yellow-walled buildingback
a rectangle of blue sky mirrored in a window
an undefined dark stain a yellowed bedcover drooping from a second window
utility boxes on the roof of the Pompidou Center
a tunneled trellis in the form of a semi-ellipse
climbing plants on the walls behind
1 concrete and 2 wooden benches
I finish my pain d’olives on one of them
to the right on an upper floor of the Musée de la Poupée
a woman is painting a yellow windowframe
the buildings are all yellow as is the back facade of the
Hotel de Saint-Aignan many of whose occupants were
deported in the same circumstances as was Anne Frank
this building now houses the Museum of Jewish Art and History
from which I have just come after viewing an exhibition of paintings by
Félix Nussbaum
who took the last train from Belgium to Auschwitz
a graft of the chestnut tree that Anne Frank could see through the window
of her hiding-place in Amsterdam grows next to the entrance to this garden
its leaves are yellow
children play in another garden just behind
next to the graft of Anne Frank’s chestnut tree a rag-piled figure lies
apparently sleeping
across from this figure sits another in an attitude of frozen prayer
a group of men come, point, talk, leave

the show window of the Doll Museum is decked with antique Santa
Clauses, two young girls in red dresses, and a woman in her corsetry
posed under a Christmas tree

a late painting by Félix Nussbaum depicts a pair of humans as articulated dolls
he spent the 30’s unconsciously and evermore intensely prefiguring what would
happen in the death camps and while living on the margins of Europe’s cities never
strayed far beyond the reach of the Nazi net

Anne Frank’s chestnut tree, severely diseased, was fitted with a metal frame in April 2008
of her tree she wrote, ‘while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy’; a few days before,
she had recorded her first kiss

when Hitler came to power Nussbaum’s compatriot, an industrial designer named
Hans Bellmer, swore never to work for the state again he began constructing life-size
female ball-jointed dolls and made photographs and engravings of women and young
girls in ambiguously concupiscent poses, disjointed victim-figures mocking the ideal
of the perfect Aryan body: one example is a seated doll-like girl with members made of
a loaf of bread, a milk jug and a table leg; another is titled “The Machine Gunneress in
a State of Grace” remarks on his work include, “the confusion of the perverse and the
banal”; “an anagram of the body”; “the physical unconscious” he wanted to ‘create an
artificial girl with anatomic possibilities…capable of re-creating the heights of passion,
even to inventing new desires’ Bellmer was welcomed by the automata-loving surrealists
and joined Nussbaum on the Nazi’s list of ‘degenerate artists’ after escaping a prison camp
for German nationals, he finished the war hiding in the maqui in southern France

around the curve of the passage leading to this garden is a gallery sporting vaginas
and penises attached to anguished human forms fondling themselves and each other

the chestnut tree in Anne Frank’s hide-out garden was finally felled by a storm August 23, 2010

in recent years Bellmer’s dolls have inspired a gothic-gore rock group from New York
and the high-fashion Sybarite Dolls exhibited at the Musée de la Poupée

Bellmer once said, ‘If the origin of my work is a scandal, it is because, for me, the world is a scandal’

a day after Anne Frank’s chestnut tree fell, a small shoot was discovered growing out of its surviving stump



© George Vance