Leaving Paris

By Don George

You are going to America

to a land you called home.

You are leaving Paris behind

— the old streets you wandered

as the sun washed the oranges and peaches

and the onions, and the lettuce spilled over the street

where the villagers bellied and prattled and squalled;

the cheap café on Rue de Rivoli

the rich always passed by,

and where you knew a cold beer

and jambon pays salved the worst days;

the foolish weekends on the Normandy beach

where you almost came to believe

your own lies when they lodged deep

in blue eyes and brown skin and blonde hair;

the wise nights when you were alone

and paced the Île Saint-Louis and the Marais

waiting for the glare and hurry of day

to become the cool and lucid green of the platanes.

Then there was an older, wiser girl

who you didn’t have to be in love with to enjoy,

and good, passioned politics and arts

whenever you wanted on Rue Montmorency,

and warm, full wine and frites in the Quartier Latin

with all the wild eyes and hands and reeling vows

and the fire-eater cornered by,

but you could get away whenever you wanted

to the Seine and meet new lovers there

— yours and others — and because you were simple

you laughed at good and bad

and even when you were alone

and your footsteps echoed through the streets

everything was all right;

because you were young

and just discovering the world

so even when there was nothing

to be in love with

you loved silence and solitude;

because that was life as it will never be again:

when place and rue whispered only to you

and the dusk-soft lamps took your hand,

when a midnight croissant and beurre in a candled café,

the perfume of dark hair after Musset,

promised a dream without end

— like the first love you lose


because that was your Paris

and now you are leaving it

like the gray bookstalls on the quai

that holiday no one came:

a beautiful book, your book,


without you.

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