AUBADE FOR AVRIL
My mind returns, on rainy April mornings,
To Sansom Street in Philadelphia
And that store’s double yellow doors: Avril.
Once, on this block, Madame Blavatsky held
Her spiritual salon before she moved
To London seances with W***y Yeats,
And her stirred spirits seem to peer from sills
Above the stone shopfronts that form this quaint,
Parisian-looking stretch: cafés and taverns
Where ornamental iron gates encage
The sidewalk chairs and tables, the curved awnings
Keeping the highest brownstone steps bone-dry.
Avril exhales complex aromas long
Before my drenched umbrella folds: ground beans,
The tang of pungent teas from foreign lands,
The sweetened flakes of Cherry Cavendish,
Sleek packs of French Gitanes, squat cans of chew,
The scent of magazines and newspapers
In several languages, long rows of journals
With names of authors on the front in bold,
The wafting spearmint gum and lozenges.
Exotic charms are gathered here to stew
On the worn floors of this old narrow shop.
First Belgian chocolates, French lemon drops
In their round tins embossed with still-life fruit,
Then postcard photographs: Duchamp, Man Ray,
Whitman, and Cartier-Bresson. What moods
To wander through. My daydreams don’t deserve
Such plenitude. And John, in dark-rimmed frames,
Has stooped his head to grind Arabica
Or change Baroque quartets to arias.
Years back I’d crease a journal page to find
My place again next time, refold and stack
The TLS or Book Review, then slide
My change and leave those varied mists. All day
Avril’s perfumes and spices delved my beard
And overcoat and drew me back…. One spring,
Without daydreams, I will return at dawn,
When the bright doors are swung, and lights are thrown
On that small treasure-shop where April blooms.