Rain, Presidents, Filth and Poetry…It’s Paris After All
Newly arrived American in Paris Marjorie Ornston had ring-side seats from her apartment facing the Hôtel de Ville. The heavy rains came and went, with them gusts of winds that later in the day at Parler Paris Après Midi, suddenly blew open a window scattering the poet’s papers and scaring us all into thinking a spirit had entered the room.
That made it one helluva stormy day for François Hollande’s inauguration as the new President of the République. Funny thing, while the day was ceremonious for all of France, not one person made mention of it during the afternoon’s coffee gathering. I watched the event in the morning by live streaming on my computer, as Nicolas and Carla casually left the Elysée Palace, both in black suits and white tops, entering their town car and driving away as if his five years in office were all a dream. They were smiling…but of course…but I wondered what they were REALLY thinking.
Hollande went through the usual protocol and signed the various documents swearing him in as president. He’s a lucky man that was in the right place at the right time, waiting in the wings behind Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who might have been in his shoes yesterday if it weren’t for his outrageous conduct. (I suppose you’ve already seen the news that he’s now suing his accuser for one million dollars? You could say he “screwed up” literally and figuratively, no?)
Meanwhile, the ceremony started at the Palace and continued at the City Hall where Marjorie watched it all without leaving her seat. The rains came and went, but stopped just before Hollande arrived there. Later that day, he headed to Germany to meet with Angela Merkel (busy guy!) and would you believe his plane was struck by lightning forcing it to return to Paris? Maybe he’s NOT in the right place at the right time after all?
The rains did not stop you readers from joining us yesterday at Parler Paris Après Midi. It was one of our biggest turn-outs ever — for poetry, no less! Of course, this wasn’t just poetry — this was Cecilia Woloch’s style of poetry. When I introduced her, I reflected on when I first met her and thought poetry was for ‘sissies’ — and then I learned so much about the art through her and her powerful way of viewing it, creating it and reading it.
She retorted, “And we all know Adrian is such a sissy!” And then proceeded to wow the large group with over an hour of ‘post cards,’ ‘pantoums,’ poetry and prose written by other poets and those of her own creation. Here’s one where she helps us see the “dirtier” side of Paris from another point of view:
I love the filth of Paris, I love Paris in its filth. Even stepping off into Passy, in the elegant “sixteenth,” I can taste the soot in the air, a black curtain billowing after the train. And the woman who offers me petits fours, pretty petits fours on a plate – I love when she pulls her dainty chair away and lights a cigarette. How the gilded room fills with smoke and she disappears in it, crossing her legs.
And I love the café “Au Chien Qui Fume” on boulevard du Montparnasse. How the light is yellow, worn, and the waiter’s shirt has not been ironed. And La Petite Chaumiere in the crooked, damp Marais where we’ve come for fish. How we heap the bones on a plate, the open-mouthed heads, the thin gray skin. And how my friend insists on paying, but there is nothing romantic in this. On the street, I blow him kisses, step over dog shit, laugh out loud.
And in the station at Hôtel-de-Ville, there’s a couple across the tracks. The man sitting down in an orange plastic chair; the blonde woman facing him, straddling his lap. She is kissing his forehead again and again; he closes his eyes and lets her kiss. Her sweater slips out of the waist of her jeans, exposing the small of her back to us: a seam of pasty, naked flesh; the elastic band of her underpants.
I get off the Métro a few stops early to walk up the Champs-Elysées in the rain. A drunken man shouts from a telephone booth; blue lights flash down the boulevard. And I swear a woman is squatting to pee between parked cars just below the Etoile. She’s wearing a mink coat, stockings and pumps; has a small cocker spaniel on a leash. I want to shout, “Bravo, bon courage!” as she totters away just ahead of me.
Paris is beautiful like this; it’s the beauty of love of the body of love. Once I arrived here in winter, alone; smelled bread and tobacco and butter and piss. And what had, until then, been my heart was not so much broken as opened in sin.
(Copyright 2001 by Cecilia Woloch)
Twelve of her students from USC were there, clearly in awe of her. But we all were. She held the crowd in the palm of her hand and the adults who perhaps had the same wrong ideas as I had years ago about poetry were no doubt enlightened. Read more about the event, see the photos and learn more about our monthly gathering.
And if you don’t think Paris keeps you busy enough, don’t miss this coming Saturday night’s “Nuit des Musées” when most Paris museums will be open until midnight…FREE!
For those of you who are star struck and film fanatics, the Cannes Film Festival starts today! Follow it or head to the Riviera to rub elbows with your favorite celebrities.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(photo by Michael Honegger)
P.S. To all of you who may have NOT PAID for your drinks at La Pierre du Marais at yesterday’s Parler Paris Après Midi (we know it’s easy to walk out and forget quite innocently not to stop at the cashier to pay!), please be so kind as to ‘fess up’ or if you must, ‘rat’ on anyone you are sure is guilty! Here’s what was not claimed: three hot chocolates, one glass of Sancerre, one glass of house red wine, one Chamomile tea, two bottles of Vittel and one chocolate Viennois. Please email me to let me know so I can reduce the bill for which I took responsibility! Many thanks. Email [email protected]