Quartier Gare de Nord
October 2010 (my photo)
(A poem from my 2010 trip to Paris)
In the initial flurry of dark coats and
Clunking baggage wheels, my harsh accent that
Does not sing gets lost on the platform. The
Acclimated crowds ravage my coveted Gauloise
While I hesitate.
Emerging, damp silk and cotton clinging to
My skin, my body threatens to fail as I
Pray for her acceptance. The station
Breathes mechanical three-tone chimes
Delineating each train.
Simplicity of metal, glass and concrete,
The station does not yield to the sway
Of engines and cars. This canopy
Protects me from the elements and her gaze.
My reluctant shove opens the door.
I cascade into a surreal apertif of
Flowers, perspiration and urine,
Cigarette smoke and inexpensive red wine
Skimming her flesh. The olfactory assault awakens me
And mocks my freshness.
Redolent of yeast, her warm body embraces
Me. My mouth lusts for her breads and her
Sweets, grime overshadowed, but my first
Need is revival brought by strong coffee
In tiny cups.
At the hotel, I climb a vivid pink and
Worn brown spiral of 85 stairs to a
Corner chamber where imperfect sheets
Remain suspiciously mussed from the
Bodies preceding us.
I step to the balcony, fingers of wrought iron
Restraining me as I stand with no destination
Sandwiched between opposing stations.
In this space, I taste her earnest
Poignancy on the breeze.
From this narrow ledge, she dances
Mesmerizing me with her softness, her angles;
Her age versus her timelessness.
Her caress reaches me and transforms the American
Tension that defines me.
Transfixed, I freeze. Every murmur against
Neighboring tracks rocks my core, screaming of my
Transience. Every siren from the streets below
Thrills me, a tremor for each pin-pon that pierces
My overconstructed fugue.
The passersby below my balcony continue their
Departure, trajectory focused on a shortcut to the
Train. Their nonchalance boggles me. Her touch
Forces amnesia, the mundane discarded in her kisses.
We descend into her streets of rapture.
She leads me through her neighborhoods
Into her flavors. She is not the girl I once knew
But nor am I the same. I desire more than I did in youth
So I chase her as I will chase her for days
Begging for our merger.
The ideologists mandate her purity, concocting paltry laws
While she feigns aloofness. The natives ignore her
Everyday charms but bristle when she shares
Her ardor with Africans, Muslims, and other dark faces
As readily as white skins.
She absorbs the choppy resonance of the Arabic
Laid at her feet and stares at the strange letters
She cannot read, because language constantly
Mutates. She can only preserve her heart and not what the
Populace layers upon her.
My feet blister keeping pace, just the endorphins
Propel me. My mood turns uneasy as she continues beneath
Me, urging me onward into her pleasures. With fats from
Her table and easy-flowing wine, she satiates, sullies
And corrupts me.
Under the haze of alcohol with a belly full of frog,
Snails and rabbit, she lures me to the river Seine,
Tourist-laden boats driving its currents,
Its banks flooded with the silhouettes
Of lovers entwined.
When exhaustion lands me in my bed, I never
Close the window. The bugs nip my soiled flesh
But I continue to expose myself to her.
How else could I monitor her nocturnal movements?
Never have I felt so dirty and free.
But finally, I return to that station, with more
Song in my voice. I laugh and weep as the
RER dashes into the suburbs. Tunnels ascend
Into daylight, sun falling on graffiti, the message too real,
My tears draw attention from a tall
Black man with dreads whose soft French comforts
My sorrow. I can only pray that he will
Care for her, as I do, and stay with her
With a permanence I cannot.