Picture Postcards From Paris

SmogTousled mother and child sleep against a temporary fence,
Curl together, serene, cane bowl and coins by bare feet near the Louvre,
Closed for completion of another underground car park.
In the Place du Concours, Japanese busloads
point Nikons at streaky grey monuments
where knitters considering the contemporary charm
of the guillotine would be run over.
Locked away in the Tuilleries, romance floats with Monet’s waterlilies.

Even on a spring day after rain, the Eiffel Tower
is coyly wreathed in smog,
while down the dusty Seine, tourist boats
swarm around the Ile de la Cité and
fish bloat in the run off.

By lucid evening light, in Montmartre love affairs revive,
Chic short-skirted girls lick strawberry icecream
and watch modern masters sketch on sidewalks.
Beneath, cold-hearted youths clutch knives
and wait at lonely Metro corners.
Over the elegant Mansard roofs, tribal traffic
howls in the noxious fumes of Paris spring,
Red cars career down cobblestones meant for carriages.
There’s no charm in a million charging Citroens –
a great place to visit,
I wouldn’t want to choke there.

1992

The current riots in Paris reminded me of this poem written after a visit to Paris. I never regretted reaching the age of 37 without a ride in a red sports car through Paris with the warm smoggy wind in my hair. This poem was published by Bruce Dawe in 1992 in the Courier Mail literary section, before it was axed. Sarkozy’s government banned beggars around the Louvre and other tourist hot spots in 2011.

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