This Imagined Paris
The boulevards pour over us
with plain geometric conviction.
Everyone is masked and humbled
by the simmering global virus.
Paris has never looked so raw,
the cafes nearly deserted,
half the museums zippered shut.
The rebuilding of Notre Dame
proceeds so slowly the workers
look Gothic yet post-historical.
We sip our lattes with caution,
keeping our voices pastoral
to avoid frightening others.
Odd that traffic hasn’t abated.
Cars nose each other like dogs.
Produce trucks from Normandy
and the Loire Valley shoulder past
with arrogance predating the plague.
We have always lived this Paris
of dominate gray palette
on either side of the Atlantic—
the Luxembourg gardens
brisk with shadowy flirtations,
the Louvre with its great flowering,
Montmartre looming over us,
the Seine fed by every river
in Europe, Asia, America.
When we leave the café and walk
toward the spike of the Eiffel Tower,
which I’ve always feared to ascend,
we may find ourselves implanting
dinosaur tracks in the sidewalks
of Boston, the fish-stink harbor
brimming with its fleet of islands.
Or maybe we’re on Manhattan,
that slab of construction presenting
the world’s most unhealable wound.
But this time we’re here in Paris.
The Jardin des Plantes at noon
ripples with a breeze the color
of authentic French, the women
masked so fashionably no one
can distinguish them from figures
of capable imagination
more forcefully sculpted than us.
© William Doreski
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.