A Few Poems Written in Paris
JARDIN DES TUILERIES
Across the Jardin des Tuileries I can hear the screams
of tourists being hurtled through the air, their heads
light with blood, their hair everywhere, their eyes
clenched closed in fear of the fact that the only thing
keeping them from falling is a bar across their thighs.
Not far from here is where they erected the guillotine.
In the night it stood, silent, open, like an empty hotel
in the mountains in wintertime. At night when lovers
walked by it they shivered. High in the air the blade
shone. Rye thrived in the blood-soaked soil. Nothing
much has changed. Summer comes. People seek thrills,
then shade under the leaves of the chestnut trees.
In the dead hour before the first Campari, the waiters
rake the fine gravel, sweep leaves. The patience of waiters!
Even the word… In another time, not far from here,
these very men gathered in throngs to scream death
to kings. Stood on street corners, handing out pamphlets
and bread. Now, they smoke and wait for the tourists
to come down out of the air, their hair still wild,
their faces flushed red, and gesture at what they want.
This statue of a nameless goddess
in the Jardin du Luxembourg,
her head is so festooned with spikes
to keep pigeons from roosting on it
she will never know the weight
of a bird, its weariness when it comes
to alight on her and recite, sweetly;
the sonnet of its flight, will never know
its defecations, its feet older than
she is. The pigeons find other heads
to land on. God knows there are plenty,
and this goddess is passed over
like a daughter who lives unmarried.
Her fingers ringless.
Pure, clean of this world.
The saddest goddess in the park.
Walking through the market on Boulevard Raspail
I step into the gaze of the wide-eyed dolls
this man is trying to sell amidst this profusion
the fish gasping in oblique schools on the crushed ice
the rotisserie chickens turning on their spits
dripping grease into the cubist potatoes
the livers and hearts exposed like secrets
the cheeses aged and wise in their white rinds
amidst it all these four dolls slouched like kids
dead at desks and in a flash I remember
the other night wandering drunk and lost
I saw a woman and her children asleep
amidst soiled blankets drifted against the wall
of a closed bank and after I'd thought of all
that money worthless in its privacy in the dark
vault banked like cooking fires like leaves
I saw atop them all there was a baby
very nearly newborn lying somehow
at about the angle of the figurehead of a ship
her eyes open great black Parisian eyes
which watched me pass as if in fear
I might do this sleeping family some harm
and long after I had walked away from where
I thought I was going leaving them nothing
but asleep I could still see those eyes
taking in what will be memories deep
as the sea these fish were torn gasping
out of her eyes so unlike the eyes of these
dolls who can only stare who someone really
ought to buy if for no other reason
than to take them home
and close their eyes Read More