Edgar Poe was fascinated by petrification, too. Perhaps that was the impetus of the master’s own Stone Age, painting animals, vegetables, and inanimate objects as solid rocks. So ponders Loulou the Pomeranian after reading “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade” – with extensive geological footnotes – aloud to Magritte, feet up on the ottoman.
“Only the light of the candle is real,” the master says of Loulou’s favorite in the series, Memory of a Voyage: a stone man wearing a stone coat and holding a stone book and stone hat, a stone lion beside him, tame as a housecat, in a stone room furnished entirely in stone.
The master has been getting sick, then getting sicker – acute rheumatism, anemia, hepatitis attacks, and a gallbladder in possible need of removal. Georgette and Loulou worry to see him, once so spry, ossify. Fear his slow decline might be followed by a quick and final one: his own personal Pompeii.
On their trip to Italy – doctor’s orders – last month, Mag wrote to their dear friend Harry in the States: “This island is devoid of central heating. This morning from 8 to 10:35 (on an empty stomach) I began my ‘cure’. Loulou doesn’t like Italian cooking, and we do our best to get used to lukewarm food that ought to be hot.” Loulou thought this cute, and it’s true, he had said that the crème of vegetable soup the hotel had fed them resembled shredded carpet. But the master’s had a hard time eating anything lately.
To say that something does not agree with one refers, Loulou understands, to one’s stomach, usually. But death does not agree with Loulou’s mind. He tries, closing the book and going to the master’s side, to feel okay with what’s happening. Accord and discord comprise the best paintings.
Of the return home yesterday, May 10, 1965, the master had written to Harry again. Georgette told Loulou what he’d had to say: “I returned from Italy in worse shape than when I left: almost paralyzed. It seems that this is ‘to be expected.’ The effect of the treatment is exhausting and it doesn’t take hold until ‘a while’ later. Notwithstanding the permission we had obtained, we had to put up considerable argument to have Loulou with us in the cabin: they made as much fuss as if it had been a calf! Which added little to the dubious charms of flying.”
Loulou admits he’s an easy cry. But you’d have to have a heart made of stone not to tear up on hearing this. He sniffles quietly at the master’s hand.
Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. Co-editor of *The Selected Writings of René Magritte*, forthcoming from Alma Books (UK) and University of Minnesota Press (U.S.) in 2016, she is also the author of seven books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including, most recently, the novel *O,Democracy!* (2014) and the novel in poems *Robinson Alone *(2012). Her second novel,*Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk*, will be published by St.Martin's Press in 2017.