Sunday, January 31, 2016

In Pursuit of Poems in Paris

I used to begin every new year at a poetry writing retreat held at a convent in New Jersey. What better way to begin a new year than by writing poetry? So I decided to usher in 2016 by setting myself the challenge of writing a poem every day during my week in Paris.

The wonderful thing about a self-challenge like this is that it sharpens your perceptions and heightens your awareness of lurking magic. Each day I was on a mission, prowling Paris in search of something to write a poem about. Some days it would be late afternoon and I'd still be without my poem, so I'd decide to add in another quick museum visit just in case a poem might be waiting for me there.

Here are a few of my captures.

Rodin's Victor Hugo

"Rodin's contemporaries were shocked
by this depiction of the ravages of age,"
reads the English translation
of the placard below the pedestal.
What ravages? I ask, puzzled. Oh, those.
Do you know you're growing old
when sunken chest and drooping belly,
gnarled fingers and sagging skin,
wrinkled brow and hooded eyes
no longer surprise?

 At the Cluny

It's a good place to come
when this century doesn't seem to be working out.
The statues so still and silent,
unperturbed by a missing hand here,
there a nose worn to a nub.
Saint Denis, cradling his severed head,
has had a day worse than yours.
But its eyes are closed in slumber,
while tapestried bunnies play motionless
by a stiff unicorn and his lady,
waiting for what may or may not happen,
biding their time, of which there is plenty.

La Neige à Louveciennes

Wherever they painted, I want to be,
Those Impressionists with their loving gaze,
To walk down just that snowy street
By just those laden trees
Toward just that muffled church
For just this silent blessing.

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