XVIII. Before

by Ahren Warner

Soutine had left Smilovitch, had left Minsk, had left Vilnius.
                 Long
before Soutine had left Paris, left Céret, had left Paris
                again,

before he had left Champigny, slept rough in the forest:
                a Jew,
and Slav; trying to avoid his billet simple to Auschwitz.
                And,

therefore, even longer before his hematemesis,
                the blood
chucked up, the ulcer that ruptured, the peritonitis,
                the covert

agony of a night-time drive, northwards, towards Paris;
                the success
of avoiding the Gestapo. Thus, long before Soutine’s
                exsanguination:

the bobo idyll of Le Bateau-Lavoir, its half-starved artists.
                Et après?
Matisse, radiance of crepe, cancer smarting like a bitch.