11/13/15

bridgelocks2

there is a bridge covered in locks
some with no keys, some sealed with long-forgotten combinations
some quietly closed with ribbons, with twine

there is a cathedral owned by gargoyles
pigeons and peasants
there is a tomb covered in small stones
flower petals, metro tickets, teeth, candy, gratitude
another tomb queerly smothered in lipstick kisses
still another dares us to break on through
to the other side

i got pooped on by a bird
while gazing up at the bell tower of notre dame
there are few times in a life you get that lucky
so i took this as a great and good sign

there is an art store on blvd. edgar quinet
right beside cynthia’s house of croissants
and confiture and catacomb secrets
the five-spoked wheel of montparnasse will never be solved

there are names that will forever soothe me
raspail. vavin. les gobelins.
place de la concorde. sacre-couer.
gare du nord. austerlitz.
trocadero.
this place felt like home the first time i breathed
in its sexy hot metal tang, its pink-grey scaffolding,
its sour-sweet sewer pong, its metro b.o.,
its cafe au lait, its legendary light
its arrogant smirk

the louvre. d’orsee. marmattan. pompidou.
l’orangerie. champs-elysees. l’arc du triomphe.
roland garros. louis quatorze.
piaf. monet. manet. dufy.
vincent slept here, and pablo.
ernest. gertrude and alice. toulouse lautrec.
all the genius ghosts.

rue mouffetard. the latin quarter. les halles. defence.
it’s shakespeare & co., stained glass and merlot.
it’s vervaine & lemongrass soap, striped marine shirts
and blue ascots. it’s berets and bastille,
brie on a baguette, pain au chocolat
steak-frites and pickpockets and a plethora of bad smells.

and it’s love.
it’s love and romance, this city of light
this city of forever light in your heart, your essenceGauloises
amour mama, not cheap display
you either love it or hate it,
this infuriating frustrating glorious
demon-angel of a city

it’s bonne mama abricots on a still-warm,
fall-apart-in-your-hands pastry
it’s slinky underwear and stilettos and a million androgynous scarves
it’s drinking wine from the bottle on your tiny front step
perfume and tulips in the tuileries
fountains and bees, creperies and gauloises
veuve-cliquot and trains and bonjour, allo, d’accord, d’accord

it’s anguish and liberte and fraternite
it’s haughty and magnifique and cold
it’s paris and it’s gorgeous
it’s paris and it’s burning

it’s a man on a street piano playing imagine
nothing to kill or die for
no religion too
imagine all the people
living life in peace
to a broken
weeping world

 

bridgelocks1

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trocadero

My brother started collecting squirrel skulls at the age of seven. But it is not yet time for madness to enter the story.

My mother found a ring at the Canadian National Exhibition Princess Gates. But it is not yet time for turquoise to enter the story.

I fell in love on the Paris Metro. But it is not time for Trocadero to enter the story.

Still, we have to enter somehow, with the story of something. So how about the story of the thimble in my jewelry box – and how it is the only thing left from my father’s house. He burned mom’s recipes and gave away her coats. Who would want them? he asked the daughter, seriously.

So I rescued her thimble and keep it preserved. And I guess that in itself is a little bit of madness and, in fact, is proof that it’s never too early for madness to enter a story.

Collecting squirrel skulls is certainly madness. My brother didn’t kill the squirrels, I hope you didn’t think that; that would be seriously mad. No, he just saved and preserved skulls he found in the woods; he had good eyes, good skills for such a thing. Our father had been a naturalist and taxidermist from the age of 13 so in our family this sort of thing was considered not even close to madness. When my father’s mother, my grandmother Clem, killed herself at 38, her madness was swept under the rug. His collections of bird and small animal skulls provided some kind of intricate, earthy solace.

The ring? Why did I save my mother’s thimble instead of the turquoise ring? I don’t know, really. The thimble seemed more her to me. She sewed some clothes for me with it. If you know what I mean.

trocadero-2I’m starting to think the turquoise ring would fit better inside a story about love on the Paris Metro. So now it is time to introduce Trocadero to the story.

There is no Eiffel Tower stop, you see; you have to know that you get off at Trocadero if you want the best view of the tower. There is a flat plane leading up to it, and always lots of people selling Eiffel Tower trinkets. Key chains. Pens. Sunglasses. Statuettes. Bottled mineral water that says Evian on the label but you suspect has been replaced with tap water. Counterfeit Evian. Paris is just that kind of place. You love and trust it even as you are suspicious of everything.

Trocadero. Did I really find love there? Seriously? No.

But I really love the sound of Trocadero. Troc-a-de-ro. Trocadero. I also love the sound of Vavin – which is a Metro stop close to another Paris tower – the less famous, big black monolith of Montparnasse that’s world-class ugly and completely soul-less. Apparently there is a view, but why would you go up to see that when you can just sit in the Odessa Cafe and enjoy the swirling sepia tones of the City of Light?

Vavin. Va-vin … Va va va voom … TROCADEEEEEEERO!

I fell in love with a boy on the Paris Metro. He was wearing a turquoise ring and reminded me a bit of my little brother. He made art that induced madness in squirrels.

montparnasse

la gare

seen better in black and white
seen best through a brasserie glass
how can i tell you: it felt like home
from the first inhalation

down on the other corner is the cemetery
where simone du beauvoir and jean-paul sartre, seeking eternal rest,
are pestered daily by well-meaning fans leaving stones, coins, metro tickets
still, it beats lying next to jim morrison over in pere lachaise
that one’s like a bloody airport, crowds of people pushing and weeping
looking to pocket fragments of the famous: chopin dust, piaf crumbs
smearing the pink tomb of oscar wilde with lipstick kisses

edgar quinet is the metro stop
ringed by art stores, pharmacie, cafe la liberte, news stand.
there is creperie row, and opposite is rue de la gaite
you can pick up asian takeaway and X-rated video on your way to la gare.
down that spoke is the cyber cube where you can rent an english keyboard
and on rue delambre there’s a laundry next to cath & dave’s hotel.
there are loads more art stores; you said you like to paint?
and café dietetique, where the food is not salted
but it makes you feel lucky.

wednesday means street market, where the most brazen of eggplants
and strawberries compete for your love with cheeses and other-wordly olives
and fresh cut flowers and paisley ties and pickpockets.
there are tablecloths and genuine french berets
and leathers and imported scarves
there are small dogs attached to large owners, and satchels,
and not as many people smoke anymore.

on sundays the mussels and vegetables are replaced by etchings and small sculptures.
art invades this street. the vendors will ship it to your house
on the other side of the world.

sometimes there’s a flea market with bird cages and old dolls
no photos please, monsieur, you must stop your camera merci beaucoup

we can sit now in cafe odessa, the most darling of all my french mistresses.
she reeks of tobacco and beer and her music is a tired loop of hits
from the american ’80s.
her upholstery is worn, and in some places torn
but we don’t care. we tell ourselves it’s charming,
in the same way the waiters pretend to find our canadian accents charming.
we know they’re making fun of us
and we don’t care.
we order beer named after french gnomes, even though you wanted a coffee.
beer is cheaper, madame; you might as well get that.

this neighbourhood is even better at night. all the outside chairs are taken;
people talk and eat and glasses tinkle
and motorbikes zoom past and drunks amble by
muttering obscenities (which always sound fiercer en francais)
and shaking their fists at le ciel

and this is where picasso and hemingway liked to party
wait, you mean you didn’t know that?

at another cafe a cat sits on the tables,
a case of black-cat ass right on your linen napkin.
i took a picture of it through the window one time
kitty bum snuggled right next to the cutlery
i do not recommend dining there

on another corner, buses. the ugly black tower.
a department store that sells the finest cheap lemon vervaine soap
and those striped shirts that make me wish i was a russian sailor
cinema, patisserie, pain au chocolat, tarte au citron
sweetest of all is that screeching metal-burnt sugar smell of the paris underground
how can i tell you it has held my heart
for a thousand years?

 


something fishy about fifty

march 16, 2007, happy birthday kathy f

you’re fifty, kathy, so of course i’m going to … think of you naked.
it’s what you wanted, yes?
well OK then, yes, i will think of you naked …
and i will think of you in paris …
not writing poetry, necessarily, but breathlessandtalkingfast and … eating;
savouring the taste of something exquisite.
i will think of you in red:
red scarves / red hats / red pants
red shoes / red wine / red lights
red leather / red eyes / red ink
your mouth a triangle of red in a montparnasse cafe,
croissant crumbs on your lip and … heart on your sleeve.

i will think of you naked / i will think of you in red
and i will think of 1957 as a good year for more than just chevys
as i think of the things that connect us:

the blood of the mothers / the sins of the fathers
strokes of the pen / strokes of luck / vincent’s sad strokes on anguished canvas
sunflowers / blue and white irises / cobalt blue plates
blue-black backdrops to starry starry nights
the irises are you, kathy, the starry night is you
banff centre omelettes and kasbar lounge cocktails
icy blue-green rivers to skate away on …
a woman named eunice

and i like the sound of … stroke, stroke / hot cheeks and cool iris
stroke, stroke / autumn colours in vermont
and i’d like to hear more about … kassie boo-boo / the french rugby team
a dead dog named jake (who i never met, but feel like i sort of know)

musee-dorsay.jpgand yes, kathy, i will think of you in paris
but you don’t necessarily have to be naked / you don’t have to be writing poems
don’t have to be breathless or writhing, talking fast or gushing brilliant …
you don’t even have to be drinking wine / or dancing in red shoes,
but you will most probably be talking a mile a minute / running / skating / climbing …
coming up for air after a marathon swim in a gatineau lake …
writing like a bat out of hell and …
changing the world with your smile

there’s something fishy about fifty, but … fishy, i wishy for you
50 more glorious years in which to be startled, delighted, disarmed.
50 more years of red scarves, red cheeks and red shoes …
and just enough blue to belong.