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
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.
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.
is a song I’ll know the words to
when it finally plays.
Until then I sit
writing poems by the radio.