What I didn’t expect was the cold
the first and last summer
we lived in Paris. The apartment in the eighth
you thought might be too grand was pure
opera—its tiny rooms, the fireplaces
needing fuel all June and July.
And how could I have expected you to move
through that summer on your own two feet?
Once, I read that longing, as a sickness of the heart
is endless, incurable. In my story
you will always walk, you will always
play quartets, you will never be sick
and you will never really die.
How did I manage
in my bad French, to rent a wheelchair?
When you had heartburn from all the pills you took
I asked the pharmacy to send us something
for a “fire in the heart.”
Whatever the French celebrated that frozen summer,
it didn’t matter, I was there layered
in unserious sweaters. On Bastille Day for the fireworks
at Trocadero, I wore three pairs of cotton socks and scarves
pulled around my neck, my breath in front of me.
I was wild to dance
at each Bastille Ball, in every firehouse,
in every quarter, stunned by wine,
no mind, no body.
Sometimes I used to think of us
as the two parts of that huge stone sculpture
out in front of St-Eustache: You, the poised
recumbent head, and me, the enormous hand,
a finger reaching for the sleeping cheek, longing
to stroke the body back … l’Ecoute
it was called, the whorled ear
big enough for crawling into, cocked
to hear the whole world turning
-- Southern Poetry Review