Under the overturned lute with its/One string I am going my way/Which has a strange sound. ~~W.S. Merwin, “Air”
For a week now i have been wandering the streets of Paris. i carry in my shoulderbag a journal & a book of poems, an anthology of French poetry my friend Ross sent to me before i left the States, or “Zone,” a selection of Apollinaire’s poems translated by Ron Padgett. “This morning I saw a pretty street whose name I have forgotten,” wrote Apollinaire, “Clean and new it was the bugle of the sun”–this wandering, this remembering & forgetting & hearing the sun’s own music, i’m convinced, is poetry street….
A street which is also a corner, any corner, let’s say where the Quai de Valmy meets Rue Lucien Sampaix along the Canal St. Martin. A passerby approaches, asks something urgently you can’t understand. She is lost, this you know. But you can’t help her because you, too, are a visiter here. The wind catches at her voice & carries it off as you shake your head, the French word for sorry–désolée–tripping, falling off your tongue. & this is how you know you exist, that her going leaves you with both a sadness & a lilt, a sadness & lilt that let you know poetry street maybe has found you. A swan makes little circles in the canal, trying to stay in line with the sun, to fit into that acute angle. You pull out your phone to take its picture & notice the young men exercising on the other side of the canal have stopped their jumping jacks & are taking out their phones too. The French word for swan is cygne, which sounds a lot like sing, seen & sign.