"The Parisians come and go
talking of Pinot Grigio."
—From "The Love Song of D. Roger Gallant"
so much depends
a glass of red
drank on a
along the river
But, in all seriousness,
Paris has been on my mind, lately.
As Baudelaire would say:
“This morning again the image,
Wave and distant, delights me.”
Although, he would say it in French,
so it would go:
“Ce matin encore l’image,
Vague et lointaine, me ravit.”
And, of course,
Paris was the nightmare he awoke to—
“sad numb world,” or
“le triste monde engourdi,”
not the pleasant dream succumbed to,
as it is for me.
Such is life,
the grass always greener...
We all need our fantasies, I suppose...
I am certain,
beyond a shadow of a doubt,
that my timbre of my life
carried no greater resonance
than when I traversed those cobble-stone streets
and that my life, outside of its confines,
is naught but a phantom play
shared by spectrous actors upon a creaky stage,
each pretending to know their lines
yet, all rendered mute
in unspeakable utterance.
When the Notre-Dame de Paris went up in flames
you cried into my shoulder and said “It will never be the same.”
I didn’t ask you then whether you meant the church
or the city or perhaps simply the way you felt,
your memory of it, charred now, like an old photograph
rescued from a burning building.
I imagine, that in some incommunicable way,
you meant that the dream, which is Paris, had become
A dream is only as powerful as its ability to remove itself from reality
and, like so many things in this world,
we cherish the idea of that city more than its authentic self.
In Japan, they call it ‘Paris Syndrome.’
Having lived in the city, I know the smell of its piss
and the flavour of its cheap wine.
I also know that its haute couture boutiques
are framed with the stained mattresses where Romas sleep.
I cannot hold with those who laughed as the cathedral burned
and I think often of the day I proposed to you—
looking down at the church in the afternoon light
from the Tour D’argent,
bragging to the chef that I, also,
was a ‘chef of the Tour D’argent.’
The look of complete confusion on his face
and the muffled horror of your glee.
We held in our hands for that brief afternoon
a world that seems so often to exist only in photographs,
sepia-coloured remembrances of other peoples lives
but, in that moment, was ours.
Of course, now that view from the Tour D’argent is also a dream
that we shall never return to in exactly the same way.
O, these thoughts make me nostalgic
and I think of those months we spent in Paris
walking through Jardin du Luxembourg in the rain
and mingling with the beatniks at the Au Chat Noir,
and the inexplicable astringency of Cafe Richard espresso,
and the never-ending line-up outside of Shakespeare and Co,
and cheese plates and cheap wine,
and jazz caverns
and Theatre Chochotte
and all the other crazy, wonderful mess that is Paris
and I count myself grateful
to have traipsed its crooked ways
for whatever small time allotted to me
and I challenge any so-called human being
to explain to me what they’re living for
if not for Paris
if not the for the Notre-Dame de Paris.
Devon Gallant is the author of four collections of poetry: The Day After, the flower dress and other lines, His Inner Season, and most recently S(tars) & M(agnets). His work has been featured in Vallum, Graphite Publications, Carousel Magazine and elsewhere. He is the founder and publisher of Cactus Press, the editor of Lantern Magazine and the co-host of Accent, a bilingual poetry series based in Montreal.