Remembering Landscape – Madeleine St.Romain

Madeleine St.Romain

Persis: Why does the river have no fish?

Hydromel: No one’s ever been drowned in it.

Persis: Why can the river never be at ease?

Hydromel: First it must find someone to drown.

Persis: Put your arms around me.


Silence is golden.

Hydromel: My guts are creaking. I sound like an old house settling.

Persis: Does it bother you?

Hydromel: What?

Persis: Hearing your insides.

Hydromel: I don’t know.

Persis: Tubes and glands. Fat and meat and gristle.

Hydromel: When you put your ear to a tree trunk, you could hear things happening inside the tree. Whether it was the slight vibrations of branches in the wind or actual internal processes, I don’t know.

Persis: Would you like to be a vegetable?

Hydromel: Mineral.

Persis: Adamant?

Hydromel: Antimony.

Persis: Rocks in the river.

Hydromel: If only we could be translated.

Persis: Scenery.

Hydromel: Yes.

Persis: Hemlock, mayapples, tulip poplars, granite.

Hydromel: Quartz, beech, yellow birch, sandstone and shale.

Persis: I wish we were. I wish we were.

Hydromel: Sourwood. Silverbell.

Persis: Stop.

Hydromel: I’m sorry.

Persis: It’s all right.

Hydromel: Really?

Persis: No.

Hydromel: I didn’t think so.

Persis: Why can the river never be at rest?

Hydromel: I wish we were all dead.

Persis: I don’t want to die.

Hydromel: Past tense.

Persis: Oh. Yes.

Chloe walks down the path to the garden. The path is made of pebbles of jasper and agate and petrified wood. Chloe wears shoes of plum-colored leather with sandalwood heels. Her crimson and gold brocade gown a l’italienne is patterned with maple leaves and pomegranates, embroidered with garnets and amethysts. Her underskirt is burgundy sarsenet. Her stockings are violet. Her hair is altogether anachronistic, falling in black waves to her waist, caught up here and there with ruby pins and shot silk ribbons. She glistens in the afternoon sun. The air smells of rosemary and four-o’clocks. Her heels click on the smooth stones.

Persis: Chloe?

Chloe: I’m dreaming.

Hydromel: Is it a happy dream?

Chloe: Yes. Oh, yes.

Persis: Mignonette and roses.

Chloe Yes. Wrap me tighter.

Hydromel: You need to stand up.

Chloe: I do like domesticated landscapes. Even animals make paths. Bear trails, deer trails, alligator trails. Rivers to wade and ridges to follow.

Persis: Queen Anne chairs on the cliff’s edge.

Chloe: That’s not kind, Persis.

Persis: I’m sorry, darling.

Chloe: I want to wake up. I’m suffocating.

Hydromel: You’re in an arbor, Chloe.

Persis: Gewürtztraminer and Souvenir de la Malmaison.

Chloe: De la Malmaison?

Persis: It’s a Bourbon rose, soft and pink and sweet.

Hydromel: Gewurtztraminer grapes are pink as well, spicy and fragrant. Think of all the bees.

Chloe: And a river nearby?

Persis: Of course. A shallow river full of rapids and cascades.

Chloe: I can hear the river, Persis.

Persis: I’m glad, darling.

Chloe: And it will never be at rest.

Hydromel: Never. Do you want to lie down now?

Chloe: I never woke up.

Persis: Silence is golden.

Chloe: Yes.

Persis: I wish we were scenery.

Hydromel: Someday.

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