I am lecturing at UIndy about my trip to Europe in 2011!
Not really. But I am reading my poem “Paris” (the 3rd prize winner of the university’s poetry contest).
I wrote this poem about one day that my girlfriend and I were walking around the city. We had visited the catacombs, La Tour Eiffel, the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay during the previous days. The day that inspired this poem was a loosely planned stride around la ville d’amour, including a long walk along the river.
That day we ate at a panini shop off some side street near the Seine. I have no idea where it was exactly. If I went back and tried to find it, I would probably feel like I was in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. At this restaurant, though, Stephanie and I had the best vegetarian food after leaving England a week prior. France is big on food, so long as you eat meat.
So I hope you enjoy this poem as much as I enjoyed that sandwich:
striding along the Seine, I have to laugh out,
resist the yell —Vous êtes le plus Français!—
at a man with striped sweater and baguette.
snow globe eyes wide, rotate every way—
like boules à neige that tourists are buying,
paying in camera clicks on les Champs-Elysées.
the Seine’s banks, maybe in waiting,
once were stones chiseled into statue
who forsook their humble beginning,
rose to the Louvre (small move, grand adieu),
after which Paris hired a new shore—
whose sidewalk splendor burns soul and shoe.
but a set of gray stairs climbs to a door
like a bear cave—ours brun ou noir ou gris?
we climb up, car il n’y a pas d’ascenseur.
dark crags hidden where everyone can see
is this an entrance possibly to the catacombs
where National Geographic says people party?
door opens and people emerge from the tomb
rushing-pushed-passed, down the staircase.
door being open, I peer cautious into the room
and some sign informs: St. Michel/Notre-Dame.
I reply: Stephanie, it’s another Métro entryway
but not iconographic for photographs, like some
in pictures for sale along Monets and Manets
cheap postcards, flags, each 3 euros per pop
outside former train station, Musée d’Orsay.
we pick a side-street, some petit panini shop
that offers more food (pour nous végétariens)
better service and cost, Orangina in a tab top.
we don’t choose a fancy restaurant, not again,
where waiter stereotypes straight from film
want to yell—Vous êtes le plus Américain!
I opted out of ending the poem with a melodramatic Fin.
Although I do not have a photo of the situation that the poem describes, I do have a picture of the Seine from the top of La Tour Eiffel. It was freezing up there. But I could have warmed up with a glass of champagne for a mere 30 euros. I was a cheapskate and opted out of that as well. However, the forty couples that got engaged up there sprung for drinks. Hey, if you already spent a fortune on a ring and a trip to Paris and sweated out the stress up to that instant, you probably deserve (and definitely need) a drink. Am I right?