What is she, but a dream, a city illuminated,
lights reflecting on wet streets, glimmering
on the rippling currents of the Siene, romance
dripping from red lips hidden in shadowed alleys,
the sombre facade of the Notre Damne quietly judging
the Moulin Rouge lifting her skirts at passersby,
loved (I hear) in the springtime and fall, in the sizzling
summer, in the winter that drizzles. This amalgamation
of film reels spiraling becomes more real than reality.
And what of the lesser Parises — in Ontario and Arkansas,
Winsconsin, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Idaho, Missouri,
New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee,
Kentucky, Denmark, and Kiribaiti — towns trying to stake
a claim with a name, gather about their dull edges and gritty corners
a bit of shed glitter absently cast off the swirl of their greater's
can-can skirt, a little velvet from the Eiffel Tower's shadow.
This myth of Paris, City of Lights, is more powerful even
than the myth of the Paris that stole Helen from her towers
and launched a thousand ships against Troy, who brought
to bear the great Achilles with a single arrow to the heel.
I dream of Paris as I dream of Atlantis, as a place
contructed of story and fiction, home to absinthe and poets,
a nest for artists and writers, Fitzgerald and Hemmingway
and Dalí and Picasso, artists melting into a place
I have never seen and can never, I imagine, touch
or even begin to unravel into understanding.
But those who were born there, who skipped rope
along its cobbled avenues and walked with grand-mère
to the corner store to purchase tomatoes, milk, and a baguette,
it is not the mundane streets of Paris that is the dream,
but other cities in other lands — perhaps my own.
Author's Note: This poem was written in response to the prompt "Paris" from @JacquelineSorbet.
Lines 7-8 are a riff on the well-known Frank Sinatra song: "I love Paris in the spring time / I love Paris in the fall / I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles / I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles."
In line 19, the phrase "launched a thousand ships" comes from Christopher Marlow in reference to Helen of Troy. The direct quote is "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships."
In line 28, "grand-mère" is French for "grandmother" (I think).
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The Poetry ProjectPoetry
The Poetry Project was ongoing from early 2013 through April 30, 2014. It invited readers to submit prompts, which I turned into poems. The prompts were quite varied and let me stretch my skills, like doing calisthenics. The project is over, but th...