Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Looking at Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy

by Jonathan Aaron
From his collection entitled Journey to the Lost City

Henri Rousseau, "Sleeping Gypsy"

A gypsy girl decides to visit her grandmother
on the other side of the desert. Carrying a staff, 
a jar of water to quench her thirst, a lute for music
to keep her company, she travels all day.
It's getting dark when she arrives at an oasis.
After she eats a few dates and drinks some water,
she picks up her lute and sings herself a song.
Then she lies down and quickly falls asleep.
She doesn't see the moon rise, and the stars as well,
and the night turn into an approaching lion.
Lions eat anything from insects to antelopes to giraffes.
This one has to be at least ten feet long from the end of his tail
to the tip of his nose. I can't tell you what he's doing here.
I don't know why he's not back home in some African savannah.
He walks up to the sleeping girl. Maybe she's dreaming about
her grandmother, whom she counts on seeing tomorrow. Maybe not.
The desert is completely silent, except for a jackal barking
faintly and far off. The lion looks around with a shining eye,
and a breeze stirs his yellow mane as it would the curtain
across the window the girl sleeps next to in really hot weather.
No, I don't think the lion is going to eat her. Yes,
you could say she's wearing a brand new dress.