Callaloo 23.1 (2000) 74
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Climbing Montmartre *
Part 1: In the Family
Take these thousand steps, these up-running shoes,
the orange / red / brownstone rooftops
studded like Arab faces in the sun. Take
my one African eye.
Take these white steps, these ladders up-growing
from the green, the marble-head dome with eyes
the flicking cameras of tourists, the franc rusted
fountains, the postcards, the translated prayers.
Take the beaded stained glass and the false
night naked inside, the nuns singing, the
statues looking cool, the candies leaning from light.
Langston in the twenties and old Locke too,
Cullen from the Hotel St. Pierre,
Wright from rue Monsieur le Prince, even too,
Martin came to climb Montmartre.
Take the fast breathing, the up-going,
the wide plane of rooftops frozen in a Paris mist.
the dignity of trodden stone descending to
subway sleepers, take my primitive feet
danced out and still.
Take the iron colored dust from Gare du Nord,
the pigeon feeders, the hundred smelling vendors,
the fast hands, the begging. Take jazz in
twisted TV antennas and wire clotheslines, or
my lips quivering, hands watching, holding.
Take this hill into the mind as you look
all over Europe; your clogged ears can't hear
the screaming, your pointed noses snuff out
blood and urine smells, your green eyes
don't see this body drop on angry gargoyles.
Melvin Dixon (1950-1992) was a professor of English at Queens College in New York. His numerous publications include Love's Instruments (poems) and Vanishing Rooms (novel). He died of complications of AIDS-HIV in 1992.
* from Change of Territory (Callaloo Poetry Series, 1983). Reprinted by permission of Faith Childs Literary Agency.