by Andrena Zawinski
This picture is for you
of the café where I rested
on the long walk
from Tour Eiffel to Notre Dame,
and here is another
of the Louvre, with a view
from the other side of the river.
Tonight, nibbling at the last
of the boulanger’s stiff baguette
and overripe cheese, I have to tell you
this red wine must be finally
getting to my head,
because I find myself alone
and scribbling in the dark
the hotel generator has failed,
At the window of this blackened
walkup, above the sax and scooter
skittering St. Catherine’s Square,
there is across the walk a light
on the bright white tile
of someone’s kitchen wall,
a dozen limpheaded roses
on the sink, plates and glasses
left neatly coupled
at the drain. It is the two of them
I think I see below, arm in arm,
moving along the cobblestone walkway
through the shadowed narrow,
their backs toward me.
As I’m scribbling in this dark,
I am trying to place
where is the cache of maps, carnets
of tickets to take me
where it is I will go next. Afraid,
in Paris, I weight thin French
with pauperish smiles
I try on, like grande dames
do hats in chic boutiques
inside Le Marais.
(Only the once, when I was not afraid
and dared a brief American skirt
with just English, was I mistaken for
Irma La Douce in Bois de Boulogne.)
Now that the lampe hums, flickers
a promise of light,
Vivaldi swims up from the square
on strings of guitare, July, rain,
on the splash
of wheels spinning the street.
Everyone else seems to know
where it is
they are going.
And me, at least
I have traveled here.
I have made it
SOURCE: Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “Poet’s Corner” (A-7), June 3, 1995, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Also appears in the author’s collection Traveling in Reflected Light.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Many years ago I braved a trip to Paris alone after being part of a University of Pittsburgh Teacher Writers Project for three weeks in London. Impulsively, with a Poor Man’s Guide to Paris a friend gave me, I walked into a travel agency and booked a flight that same afternoon. Who doesn’t dream of a trip to Paris who has never been? And who wouldn’t be surprised there by power outages in the City of Light? The fifth-floor window in the room I had rented, having a bit of dinner at the window, was the perfect place for an eavesdropper like me. There I began “French Postcards” as an actual postcard. The rest emerged once the lights came back on, absorbing some of the unexpected on that journey. When I saw Rooftop Hideout by Evgeny Lushpin (above) on an internet site, I was struck by the painting because I could swear that’s the window where I wrote the poem “French Postcards.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrena Zawinski’s poetry has received numerous awards for lyricism, form, spirituality, and social concern, with several receiving Pushcart Prize nominations. Her latest book is Landings from Kelsay Books; others are Something About from Blue Light Press (a PEN Oakland Award) and Traveling in Reflected Light from Pig Iron Press (a Kenneth Patchen Prize), along with several chapbooks. She is a veteran teacher of writing and activist poet who founded and runs the San Francisco Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and is Features Editor at PoetryMagazine.com.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Born in 1966 not far from Moscow, Evgeny Lushpin was apprenticed in Russia’s finest schools. His work is based on endless travel across channels of old cozy towns and long avenues of world famous cities. He endeavors to capture stunning moments and show more than meets the eye. The play of light and dark, rich palettes of color, and hundreds of subtle details work together to create a symphony of power and light. His style is widely recognized and his work attracts collectors from all over the world. He says, “It’s a different state of mind with each painting, but I always completely immerse myself into the time, place, and subject of my art.”