“I love the imagery of Paris in this poem and how sound is used as well as rhyme to create rhythm. The French vocabulary and Parisian sights enhances a real sense of place. The almost nursery rhyme-esque rhyme scheme gives the last line an even greater impact when we don’t expect it.” Thanks as always to guest editor Jess Green for selecting these poems on ‘difference & defiance’.
The Last Time I Smelt Paris (January 2019)
(with apologies to Jerome Kern)
The last time I smelt Paris, the air was shot with fear
The trepidation tourists feel when gilets jaunes are near.
Chants with piercing whistles and drumming echoed round
Shaking gilt from the gilded frames and paintings I’d found.
The last time I walked Paris, I planned a cautious path,
But still was caught near Châtalet, before the aftermath.
Along the Seine, armed soldiers lounged by the barricades,
While serried ranks of les gendarmes were human palisades.
The yellow flowed on the Rive Gauche, I dashed to Notre-Dame
And sheltered by the gargoyles then ran to Saint Germain.
I grabbed a vin by a soft-lit bar and re-checked my ‘Rough Guide’,
But the Patron marshalled waiters and hauled everything inside.
Word was the jaunes were coming and les garçons braced for war
But all I saw were mères and enfants calling out for more
Care and understanding, a proper place for them to speak
So they could be heard by those in power, the comfortable elite.
The last time I smelt Paris, scorched metal filled the air,
The tang of burning plastic was difficult to bear.
I stepped around the motorbikes pushed over on la rue,
While weary locals shook their heads and formed a clean-up crew.
The last time I saw Paris, the Louvre and Jeu de Paume,
Musée d’Orsay, Jacquemard-André, Ricard and crêpe jambon,
All ticked my tourist list. But the greatest views are clear
And, wrapped in heart-felt sympathy, make the finest souvenir.
Marka Rifat went to school in Middlesbrough and now lives in Scotland. A member of Mearns Writers, she has prizes in poetry and fiction and her short plays have been staged. This year, she performed at crime festival Granite Noir and, in Doric. at the Stonehaven Folk Festival, published stories in Noon (Arachne Press) and The Eildon Tree, and a poem (Black Bough Poetry).