by April Chye
let’s go to paris, you say to me
from one end of the world to another.
I’m slipping past the darkening raintrees, the drowning sunflowers,
across the swathe of red equator and
you’re drifting through the blue mist as
winter falters past your windows, and we’ll meet
in paris, two doves in mourning
til we meet.
let’s go to paris, you say
eating a bowl of cereal on a cold morning.
I’m nine thousand miles away, sipping
on a coconut and dipping
my toes in the pool and
I say yes, let’s.
forget that you have snow in your porch to shovel,
forget all I do at the country club is
act alive, let’s go to paris and
embrace the flutter of wings as we settle
onto cobblestoned ground,
breathe in the posies and the lavender,
the sway of bosquets along champs elysees,
hear the brush of cashmere cloaks and silken scarves, flapping
against strangers’ necks in the faubourg saint-honore, and
the click clacks of our footsteps trudging
across the city of lights;
at night, the opera batille curtains flutter open onstage,
as human swans soutenu to la bayadere
in traceless grace.
why paris though, I ask one day,
out of the blue,
in the yellowing dusk,
near the reddening heat
meanwhile the tea is boiling,
the screen is flickering
as ted mosby steals a blue french horn
for the girl who fed him olives from a corked jar
in the crampedness of her brooklyn apartment.
he’s a sad man for believing in everything in his world, you gibe, hand diving into the bag of trail mix,
heart like a trussed open tent, gaping into the wind.
you’re a sad man for believing in nothing in yours, I gibe, taking the proffered cashews.
why souse ourselves in the city of dreams then,
the city, our city
where all of what we know of paris is our own,
different from what the irish painter who smokes montecristos sees
from what the nigerian model with the pet parakeet
in boulevard haussman knows.
why not sweden, thailand,
burma or moscow?
we could tear off brioche into,
and spoon poire belle helene in
each other’s mouths in each and all of those places
so, why paris,
what sets it apart
from the rest of the world,
the uncharted land left
by the ones looking for love?
why run?, I ask. because anything, you reason,
is better than this.
since this life began you’ve been feeling like
it’s so hard to get by in this existence, like
none of it is worth it anymore,
like ash from a body dwindling into dust.
you’re like the boy who refused to grow up,
who chased neverland and wanted to shoot off into the distance
into its exuberance with wendy
I know where this leads to,
and this story isn’t a happy one.
so grow up, peter
age is a monster
who knocks on all our doors,
incessantly and inevitably,
and with time
our want for fairy dust will be short-lived,
we will all grow out of our need to fly,
to be winged creatures perched for the heights.
I know this much, peter,
it will turn sour in time,
the wine staining the tips of our wings,
the whiff of acerbity,
and you wouldn’t like to be called absurd,
would you darling?
don’t be melodramatic, you say,
we are allowed to dream aren’t we,
but sentient beings aren’t senseless beings, you know
there’s a dream named paris
in the never-ending shades of what might become of us
but it doesn’t end well.
I’m scared, peter.
I’m scared for you.
sometimes, I’m scared of me too.
well then, what else is there left to do but run,
you were always so matter of factly about things, you child,
we can run
but let me tell you something about the light,
let me tell you something about our darkness,
for two people like us in agony like crumpled foils in the wind,
our pursuit is the one of
kings after crowns,
paupers after riches,
the scampering squirrel after the golden apple,
peter we’re running because we’re scared, but
the fear is inside of us and for that,
we’re never getting there, peter.
we are in the room where the air lights up in flames
like sparks dancing atop our nerve endings.
all the world’s ending, you say,
as you huddle under the covers and pull me under.
my soul is split into two, you moan,
there’s nothing to live for anymore,
we have nothing to live for,
nothing that binds us to earth.
we can be bound to each other, to the
dog that will never stray, to the
glistening orange tree in the grove,
but there’s nothing to show us why we were made to roam in one place
and not the other, here
and not in hell;
if there ever was a god in this universe
he ought to scrap it all
and try again, try making us feel
alive for once.
we’ll skim past the dimly lit iron gate alleys,
and the forty year old carpenter
who struts down pere-lachaise singing to the dead.
instead we see decadence
as we devour mouthfuls of duck confit and foie gras
melting at the tips of our wine tinged tongues,
champagne bubbling over
glasses of crystal,
the silverware clinks against the porcelain,
exquisiteness, as we poise our ears against the draw
of crimson curtains in bouffes du nord
for the echo of chamber music and
opulence, as we feast our eyes in musee de l’orangerie
on the masterpieces of monet,
his beautiful brushstrokes making each canvas
stop, you say, at this point, you’re making me hungry.
I want to escape and you’re making us and paris seem
you’re right, it’s all in your head,
none of this is real, I quip.
the two aren’t mutually exclusive, are they
and this is as real as it gets,
your nibbled lips and my sugarplum neck
stinging like honeysuckles in the dark.
I promise to keep the bad things from you,
I promise to never lead you astray
don’t cry because of me, you whisper
as I sniffle into your chest,
as another silver cord forms
and impossible to break.
what we think of the dancing, the light,
the live music and
the dead art
the city of romance a faint dream.
when I’m in the corner dwelling on things
that make my mind jolt and scream
and you hold out apple tea and cookie monster cupcakes,
forget the wine and hors d’oeuvres
we can feast on goose and game anywhere else. this, though,
this is real.
when you grab me as I walk away and spin me around,
we are dancing to the inconsolable song that won’t stop singing,
and when you kiss me in the room that lights up in flames,
we are carving cities and villages
into the blank canvases of our hot bodies,
our legs incredibly tangled and impossibly fit
and we’re feasting our eyes on the most captivating painting of all.
this is paris that we’re living
our world that we’re forging
as we traipse down broadway
and stop for some new york cheesecake,
as we hike down to 53rd and 6th
to inhale chicken and rice in the biting cold;
every night you sniff the vanilla on my neck,
our hands warmly clasped
two cogs fused together in the dark
as the lavender along champs elysees flits away in comparison.
I believe, we’re at a crossroads, I say later,
I think we’ve been here forever.
your hand pauses, do you object to being in the standstill?
not really I suppose, my eyes flickering,
ours is a circular standstill.
and what we see in paris is the romance,
the pastries and the checkered cloth,
the petals and the bouquet,
the saxophone and the jazz,
we’re in love with the idyll of love,
and it’s all lovely isn’t it,
until it isn’t,
until we’re more charmed by the light shining
through the glorified pompidou
than the light in our eyes as we embrace
until we’re swayed more by the warmth of our standing
on the peak of the eiffel tower with someone,
than the warmth of our hands fused together,
as evening falls in fall.
later, our world will end, with
water traipsing up my navel, and
embracing my neck
like the lovelorn drunk who clutches jack daniels by the throat,
and I will stand there
by the tips of my toes
like a lover waiting to be kissed,
because it is the only form of survival I know,
gasping for air
as the ground that bound spirit with wildfire,
bodies with black magic, the ember glow
with the velveteen dance crumbles away,
and at the very end
your lips will be replaced
with the cold influx of water,
and I will say
what I had always suspected,
heaving dagger to our necks,
plucking harpstrings from our chests
trailing crimson ribbons
along our skin,
we were in paris,
held french curves to our faces,
live until we didn’t,
knew it was burning
but savored it anyway
later, when our world ends
flushed with desire
and so in fire
I will say,
honey, I think we were in paris all along.