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  • Paris Conundrum
  • Chris Ransick (bio)

I saw your shimmering tower and your dirty gutters, dog shit

at the entrance to the fancy brasserie,

women in sunglasses and silk scarves walking rapidly past a kneeling [End Page 152]

immigrant with cardboard sign: je faim.

I heard buskers on the steps of Sacre Coeur

butchering already bad American pop songs

but also the violinist running Vivaldi’s arpeggios

as sunset blazed bright through the windows of St. Chapelle,

casting liquid light across listeners’ skin.

I drank your hundred-Euro wines and tiny cups of black coffee.

I walked wide boulevards between boutiques of chrome and glass,

I walked narrow bent lanes where hucksters loitered among middens

of shattered plates. I was cursed by cheap artists in Montmartre

and listened at the graves of Sartre and Wilde for some last

wise remark, but only the crows had something to say

and I speak neither French nor the language of caws. [End Page 153]

I stood by the Romans’ tepidarium at Cluny

counting the layers of mortar and brick and mortar again.

I wandered Notre Dame’s vaulted aisles while

ethereal voices sang out on Good Friday the

suffering song, penitents kneeling to kiss a reliquary.

I walked along the Seine and saw Hemingway’s ghost

chasing down pigeons in the Luxembourg gardens,

hungry as only a dead novelist can be,

and in a station of the Metro there were no petals on a

wet, black bough, only faces of tired tourists

and a French wife berating her bored husband in his

black beret. Finally, it was time to leave.

The train ran its gauntlet of graffitied walls between [End Page 154]

broken-down houses, small plots planted for

spring with greens and onions.

At the airport I was frisked by a rubber-gloved man,

the only person in France who touched me.

Chris Ransick

Chris Ransick, Denver’s poet laureate, won a Colorado Book Award for his first book, Never Summer. He is the author of a short fiction collection, A Return to Emptiness, and most recently Lost Songs & Last Chances.



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