I have been writing about movies since the 1970s. In my collection Femme du Monde, there is a suite of film poems that consider American movies and the narratives of women’s lives in cinema from the 1940s to 1960s, starting with Laura and ending with Hud. “Belle de jour” is, as you know, a pun on belle de nuit. The protagonist is a bored bourgeois housewife who takes a job in a brothel. Catherine Deneuve is at her most beautiful and Luis Buñuel is at his most misogynistic—the lovely wife (Séverine) is transformed in this film into a more assertive interesting woman who must contend with the dull husband. The poem sort of considers Séverine, her boredom, her marriage, that husband. The lines are short and move quickly in and out of her predicament. I am not sure it all works, but there’s something about the film’s severity and odd humor that made me want to try.
Belle de jour
The housewife birds
To another house-black lace stockings
Here sex is transactional
She gives a little. He pays a lot
She birds back-sofa purchased
Suits cleaned. Walk here and there
The shops @) and (@) and (@)
Chanel, Dior, Hermes
Silks and leather –Leather and silk
She memorizes the number of tassels
On her brand new whip.
Silk and leather and diamond shaped bird
Her earnings consumed in pretty things
Husband finds –mis understanding Where
He beats her after sex
She gives a little. He takes a lot.
She considers the whip. She considers the blood
Down his back. She considers the sofa. She
Puts the bird on her chest. She refuses to
Husband washes his hands and considers
The necessity of marriage. What is wife but
Bird. But if bird, what is husband. Hunter or
Just another bird. Blood runs down his back.
Home is après ski and minor gossip
Home is husband
Home is where the cat’s claws
Patricia Spears Jones is a nationally recognized poet, playwright and cultural activist whose collection, A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems is forthcoming fall 2015 from White Pine Press. In 2014, she published the chapbook Living in the Love Economy (Overpass Books) and her three full-length collections The Weather That Kills (Coffee House); Femme du Monde and Painkiller (Tia Chucha Press) are in print. Her poems are anthologized in Angles of Ascent: The Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry; broken land: Poems of Brooklyn, Best American Poetry and elsewhere. Her plays were commissioned and produced by Mabou Mines. She curated the Wednesday Night Series at St. Marks Poetry Project where she served as Program Coordinator, 1984-86 and she recently started WORDS SUNDAY, a literary series in Brooklyn. She is a senior fellow for the Black Earth Institute, a progressive think tank. Her website is http://www.psjones.com.