- Paris Conundrum
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, 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.