Saturday, November 28, 2015

our paris

our paris
was not the technicolor gay paree
of gigi and maurice chevalier
of woody allen’s midnight in paris
of moulin rouge! and paris je t’aime

our paris was brooding
dark and damp …
a four-day late november
whirlwind visit …
we stayed in a double standard
at a tiny hotel on boulevard de strasbourg
amidst stores selling wigs
but not the sheitel kind
where my wife minutely examined
the sheets before pulling them up

our paris was a shabbat evening dinner
at the beth loubavitch chabad house
near the arc de triomphe
whose address was on the champs-élysées
but whose entrance was hard to find –
purposely perhaps –
where orthodox men
wore baseball caps and nondescript clothing
because of wanton antisemitism

our paris was remembering
the internment and deportation of jews
by a complicit and willing vichy regime

our paris was realizing
that a government was willing to sell its soul
for the sake of its architectural splendor

but our paris was walking and walking
while i pored over my trusty maps
and taking the metro
to the père lachaise cemetery
to the louvre and to the notre-dame cathedral
to versailles and to le bon marché
whose prices were so high
we walked in and around and out
but then serendipitously
getting on a bus
that took us to the eiffel tower

our paris was having warm bread and cheese
while sitting along a boulevard
on a dreary afternoon

our paris was dining at an outdoor café
huddling next to a heater
whose filament was red-hot

but our paris was having an overwhelming need
to eat kosher food
which we found at la’s du fallefel
in the jewish le marais district

in this fabled fantasized-about
larger-than-life city
our paris was a mix of wonder and awe
but also of disgust …
turnstile jumpers
knocking aside passengers
over-eager souvenir hawkers
blocking exit paths
the squalor and sleaziness
of the porte de clignancourt flea market
… even the glittering strings of lights
alongside the overpriced stores
lining the champs-élysées
could not dispel
our feeling of sorrow and bitterness
that was impossible to assuage

Lloyd Abrams
Freeport, NY USA
Donated to Doctors Without Borders

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