[pigeons, poems, a countertenor singing a medieval chanson…

Yesterday a pigeon just about took the top of my head off.

Come to think of it, maybe the bird did, in that instant, with a pigeon-y ease, skim off the top of my head only for it to settle itself again, just like that, a little less right, a little more askew.

Having the same effect, then, as a poem, a true poem, a poem worth its salt & keyed-up hours of making, or a poem worth its truffle, its sudden arrival in the duff of everyday.

You can be a poet in any field of activity, Apollinaire wrote in “The New Spirit,” provided you go forward in a spirit of adventure, seeking new discoveries. I would amend this bold statement, adding that a poem can be enacted in a multiplicity of ways, not only on the page.

The pigeon got me thinking, not yesterday but today, this morning, as i walked against the gray, rain falling like something very old & tired which cannot, like Sisyphus, escape its labors; as i walked to dispel some gloom left over from being woken in the wee-est of hours by what sounded like a procession, only a procession that wasn’t going anywhere, a procession stalled nearby—but where? Men’s voices shouting or chanting rhythmically, cheering perhaps, i couldn’t make it out. What was happening? & where? It was 1:30 am, it was 2:00, it was 2:30… The voices would recede, then come back stronger. There was something tidal about it. Then again it was like being swooped by what you cannot see…

Until finally another voice yelled over the rest, & the night which had been so disturbingly jubilant grew suddenly eerily still.

But the pigeon, as i started to say, got me thinking…thinking about what i love about being here, which in some instances is also what i find most challenging about being here , particularly being here alone.

In no particular order this is the list i’ve come up with so far—off the top of my head, as it were…

–Cézanne’s fruit seeming ready to tumble off the table at the slightest nod of one’s head…


–The long-necked water-bird i wrote about in my last post which also hangs out high in some trees that might be cottonwoods, some kind of poplar at any rate, heart-shaped leaves decaying on the ground around their stately trunks.  Oh & the bird has company up there, a dozen other long-necked birds, at last count.

–The peeling paint in churches. The nobility of a little honest wear…


–The things you see when you look up, like the placard happening to mention that Gustave Flaubert lived here between 1856 and 1869.


–Flurries of black-headed gulls over the canal. Their—pardon me if i say the obvious—foreign cries.

–Sunday afternoon concerts in churches, where, for free, a countertenor hitting those impossible, hauntingly high notes in a minor key, a medieval chanson, will surely make you cry.

–That i am constantly meeting my younger self who was here in the summer of 1983 & has, it turns out, never left.

With a pleasing mixture of nostalgia, irony, regret & distance Louis Aragon wrote about similar encounters with his younger self in Paris. Getting older we lose ourselves, he writes, “like wheels and dust in the changes.” Our younger selves have a way of enduring that our older selves have given up on, or let go of.

–The wobbliness of walking on cobblestone streets.

–Shop windows. Fabrics, books, stuffed birds, oddments, woodwinds, handbags, shoes–how rich i feel, simply looking…


–That my end of the Canal St. Martin, with Quai de Valmy on one side & Quai des Jemmapes on the other, is closed to vehicular traffic every Sunday. That’s right, every Sunday. & every Sunday how this simple fact delights.

–The scent of pastries baking, of old churches, bouquets & potted plants put out on the corner every day…

–A type of winter pear called Conference, which taste of blossoms & snow.

–The unclassifiable colors of Cézanne’s fruit. Red? Gold? Orange? And how it follows you into the streets, through your days here, throwing you off-kilter, making you less certain of practically everything…





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Poet. Writer. Curious person. Yurt-dweller. Word enthusiast. Northwesterner. Looking for poetry in some of the usual & many of the unusual places...

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