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Paris, Youth, Springtime.

Someone somewhere in the grey web of streets
was having an important feeling over absinthe
but I was the fly on the drab strand
staring down the spider's pilots. A dozen
impossible blocks away, over a span
of rooftops murky and uneven as the ocean floor,
the permanent autumn of the oils
in the Louvre broke and broke again
the widening heart of some chiropractor's
daughter from the American midwest,
but I lived the four seasons of home
in a dingy, unromantic garret where
whole centuries of artists no one
ever heard of eked out
their scribbling, dabbing bitternesses.

The City of Lights shivered grey-black
but for the dome of the Sacre Coeur
that floated in the streaked window,
locked in like an aquarium beluga.

Two days of rain, my sister ill,
that whale was my one companion.
He spoke the language of mosses
and cedars, the mutual hunger
for our lost Pacific salt. Two
spiders in every stranger's face
closed in when I walked the streets
in search of take-out food. I came
to see my whale as a fellow victim
sucked by the same cold fangs
to a bloodless husk. The guidebooks
cried "Live! Live!" The heart,
on its old streetcar lines
to the private truth, whispered
"Elsewhere."

There are days even now
when the weight of the black Paris rain
breaks a fir branch in my back
and the blood of my young hands
throbs in the ashy breasts
of the pigeons on the Champs d'Elysees.

If I ever go back,
it will be for my child, that loneliness,
my brother, those wanderings,
and to walk up to the sadness
in the eyes of my great friend who,
unlike the webbed fly
with its desperate chances
and tiny beating heart,
never managed a way out.


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TIM BOWLING's most recent books are a novel, The Paperboy's Winter (Penguin, 2003), and a collection of poems, The Witness Ghost (Nightwood, 2003). He lives in Edmonton.
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Title Annotation:Poetry
Author:Bowling, Tim
Publication:Queen's Quarterly
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:331
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