Parisian Dream by Devon Gallant

I.


"The Parisians come and go

talking of Pinot Grigio."

—From "The Love Song of D. Roger Gallant"


II.


so much depends

upon


a glass of red

wine


drank on a

pier


along the river

Seine


III.


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,

for Baudelaire,

Paris was the nightmare he awoke to

the


“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...

And yet,

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.


IV.


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 nightmare.


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.


Still,


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.




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