Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Dorothea TanningDorothea Tanning Eine Kleine Nachtmusik 1943
© DACS, 2002
Oil on canvas

Peter Porter presents his poem, 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik', based on Dorothea Tanning's painting of the same name (1943), which is currently on display at Compton Verney House Trust (Compton Verney, UK). 
Visit the Tate Collection online.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

When you have lost whatever there is to lose
You will come to the House of Tatterdemalion Proofs
Where reality is always adjacent itself
And words are at war with their subjunctives –
Alas, you recognize the mildewed Classics,
Blake’s Sunflower stranded, Cherubino’s hair on fire,
A pair of gloves for clapping the great aria.
       How many of these doors have the partygoers knocked at?
Is 210, ajar, waiting to receive someone
Or is it the cupboard where the cleaners keep their dreams?
The carpet in the corridor is on Red Alert.
An official of the Surreal Inspectorate
Is interrogating guests downstairs: do you now
Or have you ever belonged to the Accumulative Party?
       Life enlarges any neat Divertimento,
So things terrible and beautiful are reborn
Of their own volition; existence may become
A shabby house in a lost Chicago street,
But you cannot dream it otherwise – the lines
Are drawn and the bombardment starts:
Do not wake us yet, our rage must run.

PETER PORTER has published 22 books of poems over the last fifty years, the most recent being Collected Poems, 1961 - 1999 (OUP), Max Is Missing (2002) and Afterburner (2004), both Picador. His forthcoming volume, Better Than God (Picador) will be published in February 2009. The work of Dorothea Tanning has always interested him since he visited a gallery in Seillens (France) devoted to her paintings and that of her husband, Max Ernst.

Peter Porter’s poems feature in the March Poetry Review. The Poetry Review is the Poetry Society's internationally acclaimed quarterly poetry journal, founded in 1912. The current editor is Fiona Sampson. For further information, please visit http://www.poetryreview.org.uk