“Le Monde est une Poesie”: Paris, At Last!

Sunset over Place de la Bastille
“Le Monde est une Poesie” 
                      — Yaseen Khan, Paris, Isle-de-France

Paris for the first time was poetry.

I’ve been trying to get to the City of Light since I was 21, my head full of textbook French and Je m’appelle’s and Je voudrais’.  More than twice that age now, and celebrating a big birthday ending in a “0,” I set out for Paris with my mouth wide open. 

Yaseen Khan with me & Sandi

On the left bank, I met Yaseen Khan, an elegantly dressed Indian poet-philosopher with crisp blue eyes, a shock of white hair hanging over his forehead who spoke to me as if he knew everything about me as I stood translating the poems scrawled on his pen and gouache paintings taped to the iron fence surrounding the Saint-Germain-des-Pres church. 

“You know what it means,” he said, pointing, “in your heart.” On the fence near Khan’s work in big letters:  “Le Monde est une Poesie” – The world is poetry.  I bought a painting for Greg with a bit of verse by the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa:  “Je t’aime comme L’Amour aimer” –  I love you like Love loves.”

Then Khan asked me to write him a poem.  And I did, on the spot.
from la patisserie

My stay à Paris was rushing and brief—the days full of walking and walking and lovely, unexpected sun—but I tried to put as much of it in my mouth as possible. 

These  small poems formed on my tongue as I tasted the City of Light. 

In Paris,

you eat cake
because it’s beautiful
and pink
and charmant.

When I die, let there be plenty of pink cake,
enough to say that I had a very good life, 
full of sweet and beautiful things.

pain au chocolat

The morning of my birthday
I ate pain au chocolat
the tender silk and crunch I’d been dreaming 
as long as there have been stars–
perfect with a Veuve Clicquot.

breakfast Veuve Clicquot

I ordered une coup de champagne
every single Paris day.

My first night, unexpectedly alone,
I sipped glass after glass, 
writing in French
as if I was born to sin
in any language.

In Paris, there are poems written for the trees:
“if you have an arbor on your street,
your thoughts will be less difficult
your eyes more free
and you hands more desirous in the night.”

In Luxembourg, I drank and ate where Hemingway drank and ate and thought of the liquor of oysters and brandy  eaten with good bread that formed his days.  I thought of the poetry of the paired-down line, and later, in Pere Lachaise, I left my pen on the grave of Gertrude Stein.  My own days full of words and and food, as I’d hoped they’d be.

Paris, je t’aime.  I will come again.

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