A Paris Play

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now

I’m going to tell you the story

Of my coming home to Paris

Where I’ve never been before

In this life

 

This I remember

It begins with rain

We dance with it over Le Pont Saint-Michel

Gray clouds hide me from Le Louvre

 

The truth is certain places nudge my soul

I grab at them too lightly to hold on

This one slides down my gullet before I can hold it back

I feel the passion of recognition explode

 

Dina is with me in this play

She leads me down an alley in the Latin Quarter

We are on the left bank of the fourteenth century

A white dog scratches at the door

Of our hotel

 

On the way, I gather faces from the lights of shops

From chairs in cafés, from flower stalls

Arranged on lips of narrow streets

I gather voices, the sound of words, language

Feet on cobblestones, the late afternoon air

On my cheeks

Pull them into my mind as fishermen

Haul nets full of fish onto sand

 

It is the first hour I am here

A man runs to a gendarme on the corner

Waves his arms, points his finger

Disappears with the gendarme down our alley

We are on the left bank in the fourteenth century

A white dog is scratching at the door

Of our hotel

 

Daughter, let the bathwater run

She is not a child to be bathed by her mother

Her childhood recedes again

She is a woman like myself

It is she who has brought me to this city

 

A blue slate roof lies across from our beds

Stone walls below it so close

We could brush them with a long handled broom

We are taking off our clothes

The bathwater runs

It is time to draw the blue flowered curtains

I go to the window and look down

 

Center stage directly below

An archway leads into the old apartment house

Under the glue slate roof across from our beds

The gendarme is there

Then four, ten, twelve gendarmes

Dark uniforms, box caps, visors hiding eyes

They talk in twos

Split, regroup, talk in threes

Gallop, canter, ride on bicycles

Into our alley, up to the archway

Twenty, thirty, forty gendarmes

 

Now comes their leader

He wears a black suit

Orders gendarmes through the archway

Orders them around on the street

Orders a passage cleared

An ambulance creeps into the alley

Comes to a stop

A stretcher rolls through the archway

I am stuck to the window

A magnet against a brass pot

Can’t move

Dina’s bathwater laps around her body

I hear it behind me

A man in a loose, white jacket

Parks his bicycle behind the ambulance

Walks slowly through the arch

I slam the blue flowered curtains shut

She is too young to witness this death

 

On my knees under the window dipping into my suitcase

It is my turn for a bath

She runs the water for me. It rushes

Into the tub. I won’t look at the ground

I promise myself I won’t look

We talk about summer in Aix-en-Provence

The lake at Annecy, spring wine

But it is too late for me, I can’t help myself

I look out again, I look down

I look right into this face Jesus Christ God Almighty

I look at him

 

He is the color of dust

He is wrapped in orange plastic

He wears a red stripe under his chin

He is put into the ambulance

He is taken away

He is very young and my love for him

Finds its place in my soul

Dina comes out of the bathroom

Hot water is ready for me

In our hotel room

Life goes on

 

Awake in the middle of the night

Empty streets, quiet after a storm

This is Paris, entangled in my guts

Beloved as a child at my breast

Music that weeps deep inside of me

Touches my heart, lightly, lightly

This is the story of coming home

To a place I’ve never been before

Dina is with me

Once again

*Written 1986, from Poets are the bravest, pub.date: 2001
Photos of our favorite Paris Hotel: Hotel du vieux Paris

 

 

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