The sliding Seine

The sliding Seine

Streetwalkers

Slip down the sloping wall to the pebbled bank and watch
The hazy river sliding through its bed.
Slouch on the bollard and hold the mooring ring;
Close your eyes to fading steps on scree.

In the bridge’s shadow snow survives the wintry sun
Of March that smudges trees with green. Horns sound
On streets above, a fanfare calling you and me
To walk those streets and squint
In windows of antiquaries and hotels
And cafes where steaming plates fog the glass and mingle with the rings
Of smoke of mute and staring couples refugied within.

Surrendering from miles of streets and flower stalls and
Klaxons, kiosks, stiletto heels, and mumbling men
And people with a purpose,
Scowling and determined,
We penetrate the wall of sound of one bistrot—
“Un moules frites, un! Et un demi de rouge!”
With clattering and chatter and streaming smoke—
And in private silence above the maculated snow of the table linen
Listen to the hissing bubbles in glinting flutes of Pol Roger:
“What decadence in the afternoon!”

What we hear in the creamy glow of Sacré Coeur—
In bud-green smudges, an air for cor anglais
Etched on the weeping matrix of the sky—
What we hear through robins’ calls and in the mottled patterns
Of the sycamores, in the rattle of bicyles and the doppler horns,
The cries and arresting seconds of sudden stillness,
Is a call to a private bower under west-facing window
Four floors above the city and the sliding water,
Through which seep the liquid sun and dancing motes and
Black branches with their painter’s swirling green
In the deepening blue of the enclosing night.

The casement opens on a night fragrant with far-off snow
The starry air feeds a fire of knotted apple:
Fumes of fruitwood fires … from childhood, when
The smoke brought tears but we couldn’t pull our faces
From the patterned flames we fed with skins of tangerines.
Wine-colored lilies with freckled petals in a green-glass vase
Drop their saffron dust on the counterpane.
The heady musk can make you sick.

Your cocked neck and abandoned hair have absorbed
The fruitwood smoke and herbal aerosols from dinner.
Champagne on a course to your mouth foams in yeasty ferment,
Coppery, it furls and breaks upon your lips.
That mouth is a memory of delicacy, home, and breeding, holding
The animal scent of your quiet and watchful being.

In the pale of your reaching arm, a patch of l’Air du temps;
On the blond outside, hairs like those in the lily’s throat stand on end.

 

 The creamy glow of Sacré Coeur

The creamy glow of Sacré Coeur