To: Paris

In my first semester of college, I had to write a poem towards a place, in a similar vein to the way the writer from Martinique, Aime Cesaire, does in Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. I wrote about Paris, a city I’ve been enchanted with for many years but never had the chance to visit until March this year. 


Paris: immutable permanent marker dream.

What I feel for you is a sparkle-crack love,

found in picture-book fairytales I outgrew by 13.

You are my desperate idealism;

you are the sepia wallpaper on my laptop screen.

You are the romance I cannot touch, only see

all in glossy magazines –


I think I know your contours

better than a man knows the outlines of his lover.

But we have never met.

I know you only in dreams.


Yet I have learned your skin – ancient, soft, powdered,

the weak tang of perfume, warm bread, crushed cigarettes,

6pm coffee, 10pm wine –

your name smells of stereotypes.

I’m told your streets are poetry.

You are formed and malformed

through stories smoked from other people’s lips.

Don’t base your love on what they tell you, deception comes in dreams.


But I have grown up swallowing fictions.

Someone once whispered to me that the Eiffel Tower

was a needle that God used to sew up the sky.

But where are the seams?

Where are the seams?


Paris, you have a residence permit for the red beating city

within me

where no boy has ever kept up his rent.

And they warned me

that you are most beautiful in the rain – how treacherous

in this age of acidity.



I am Hemingway and you are the moveable feast.

I am Gatsby and you, the green light.

I am the mind, the notebook, the pencil,

you are the magic that runs through these instruments.

I am Zelda, you are the madness.

I am Pablo, you are the desire in my paint.

I am the dreamer and you are the dream.


But dreams are inclined to disintegrate.

Turn to fine dust under piles of boulder and glass and

21st century politics.

So they say that you’re crumbling.

Like the pastries in your abandoned patisseries, like the wrinkles on an old woman’s face.
I think that you’re crumbling

beneath the weight of artists trying to imitate

the unwieldy – love, tragedy,



They say you will disappoint.

You will disturb this fantasy.

We will not always have Paris

the Paris of our dreams.


See, my aunt once had a suite at the Ritz, she called me to talk

about the soot-stained post office

on rue-this or rue-that and what does that say about you?

The broken wine bottles that cut

like unfinished romance,

the bread gone stale, the cold lights of train stations, the vacant eyes of vacant streets, the morning’s grey,

the poetry buried beneath white lights

of cellphone screens.


Paris –

sometimes dreams are too heavy for me,

even when full

of holes and cracks;

yet I am still

Atlas and you

are the globe I carry.


I will always have Paris.

I will always have a dream.


Love is when you see through the bullet hole into the heart.

It enters through cracks, its victims’ flaws.

Yours are the smoke snuck on buildings,

and the vines like veins

bleeding honeysuckles onto windowpanes, the brusque sandwich orders in seedy cafes.


For you are the postcard that never came in the mail

but I somehow found in an empty drawer one day.

A dream stuck in the bottom of my pocket,

a coin lost on the pavement,

an idea like a thread unspooling from my fingers, misunderstood,

misaligned like the buttons on a cardigan

done up wrong.

Paris, surely

is a song I’ll know the words to

when it finally plays.


Until then I sit

writing poems by the radio.



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