The World in Miniature

Joseph Cornell, The Hotel Eden

Joseph Cornell, The Hotel Eden, 1945
(assemblage with music box).

Rowing in Eden, by Eric Anderson Reece

The hands had flown off the clock at the Hotel Eden
and above its blank face

a small wooden door opened in silence
to announce the eternal now

The concierge introduced himself as Pascal
The Pascal” we asked

He shrugged and said “Here at the Hotel Eden
you are what you were before the the

He rang for the bellhop whose pillbox cap read Apollinaire
The Apollinaire” (we couldn’t help asking)

He blew a soap bubble out the bell of his tiny clay pipe
and said “Every poem is the world in miniature”

Then he showed us to our room on the eighth floor
right between lilas and pensee

Outside the window a troupe of angels
was dancing Swan Lake atop a single obelisk

Below the belfry a cockatoo still held in its beak
the chord that once woke monks to their vespers

Apollinaire suspected the bird was an invention
of the well-dressed American poet

who sat each day in the French garden
writing obscure madrigals on paper wings

“He says we are all fictions
but that he believes in us anyway”

The day stretches out infinitely
At the Hotel Eden where the hour is always the same

even your mind can only imagine the present
“It is a great relief” I admitted

Apollinaire smiled around the stem of his pipe
and said “It pleases the Chinese poets especially”

From the balcony I gazed out across the blue gulf
A woman in a tiny white boat rowed alone

with the clock’s missing hands
“She never stays long” explained Apollinaire

“I’ve heard she prefers the Hotel de l’Etoile
on the other side of the horizon

where even the starfish (those masters
of every element) dive down from the sky

to hear Orpheus tear his throat each night
with the song of his eternal longing”

In Jonathan Safran Foer (ed.), A Convergence of Birds. Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by the Work of Joseph Cornell.

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