In Paris

by Carl Dennis

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Today as we walk in Paris I promise to focus

More on the sights before us than on the woman

We noticed yesterday in the photograph at the print shop,

The slender brunette who looked like you

As she posed with a violin case by a horse-drawn omnibus

Near the Luxembourg Gardens. Today I won’t linger long

On the obvious point that her name is as lost to history

As the name of the graveyard where her bones

Have been crumbling to dust for over a century.

The streets we’re to wander will shine more brightly

Now that it’s clear the day of her death

Is of little importance compared to the moment

Caught in the photograph as she makes her way

Through afternoon light like this toward the Seine.

The cold rain that fell this morning has given way to sunshine.

The gleaming puddles reflect our mood

Just as they reflected hers as she stepped around them

Smiling to herself, happy that her audition

An hour before went well. After practicing scales

For years in a village whose name isn’t recorded,

She can study in Paris with one of the masters.

No way of telling now how close her life

Came to the life she hoped for as she rambled,

On the day of the photograph, along the quay.

But why do I need to know when she herself,

If offered a chance to peruse the book of the future,

Might shake her head no and turn away?

She wants to focus on her afternoon, now almost gone,

As we want to focus on ours as we stand

Here on the bridge she stood on to watch

The steamers push up against the current or ease down.

This flickering light on the water as boats pass by

Is the flow that many painters have tried to capture

Without holding too still. By the time these boats arrive

Far off in the provinces and give up their cargoes,

Who knows where the flow may have carried us?

But to think now of our leaving is to wrong the moment.

We have to be wholly here as she was

If we want the city that welcomed her

To welcome us as students trained in her school

To enjoy the music as much as she did

When she didn’t grieve that she couldn’t stay

Retrieved from: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/paris