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?