Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Asleep, Paris" by Sheryl Noethe

I am standing in the streets of the Left Bank in Paris
watching the refugees paint a mural across the sides of
several buildings. It is called, The Exodus of Kabul
and to look at it makes you want to weep. Beside me
my friend wears black leather and sports a butterfly
tattoo on his throat. He reaches his arm behind me
and without touching me touches me deeply.
I am watching the movement of the colors, from the
stream of Afghani people out of the mural into Paris.
I look at the street signs and the buildings, the activity
of the Parisians and I say the same thing to myself
that I say each of these nights in Paris –
Memorize Everything.

I get a job in a bistro where I haul buckets
up huge stone steps from the basement.
I am a spectacular busgirl. Soon I am promoted to
hostess. I sashay table to table and never forget a
face. As my French improves I take reservations
over the phone. I do numbers, dates, last names.
I wake up in the morning repeating the days of the week.

I find a hotel that will rent me a bureau drawer to sleep
inside and that is my room. It tucks away. In the day
I can walk Paris memorizing street signs. I have a vague
concern that my flight home has left.

I sit at a table with an old lover and two women.
As dusk approaches the women pull long black scarves over their hair
& then the sky, too, is black. I awaken, saying, I will get a scarf.
In one gesture I will pull the sky across my hair.

I have a felt hat with two brims. It is the same purple as my lipstick.
I sit in a bar called La Pêche. The bartender winks at me.
I wink back at myself in the mirror. In my hand I hold
a brown paper bag full of cash. This time, Paris . . .
I step into the bathroom and wash my bare feet in the sink.

Outside it's raining. I see the bar's name in pink neon.
I look up into the dark Paris night and say impermeable.
There is a man at a cash machine who wears a brown hat and
trench coat. He is entirely familiar. Happily, I walk toward him.

I look up pêche in my French dictionary. Sometimes
it means peach, sometimes sin and it can also mean fish.
I look up impermeable. It means raincoat.
Party of two, Thursday evening, eight o'clock. Springtime. Here with me,
asleep, in Paris.

© Sheryl Noethe, from The Ghost Openings. Grace Court Press, 2000. Nancy Shapiro, publisher.
photo by Ricardo Bloch, from Amphibious Andromeda


Joyce said...

I just finished reading Sheryl Noethe's new book of poetry, "As Is," and I'm so taken with her poetry that I'm starting the book all over again. In her unique and vivid poems, she looks at the busy, broken world with tenderness and compassion. She is indeed a poisonchanger of the highest order!

elena said...

I agree. All three of her first books should be collected into one volume, and published and promoted by the smartest press out there. All of the poems are excellent and there are so many recurring themes, characters, and strands. Poisonchanger, yes, and she does something almost no one else does, writing poetry: writes a page-turner! Sheryl tells stories in the most startling, memorable way. I'm with Martin Sheen (one of her fans) on this one.

Mike Finley said...