kids throw leaves on the vent
bringing hot air from the metro station far below;
the leaves (not the kids)
dart up in urgent spirals while nearby
a girl with dyed-blonde hair wearing leather jacket
sits smoking a cigarette and talking on her mobile
as her adolescent doberman with bandaged leg
strains at the leash around her feet to
chase the jack russell that just did
a shit bigger than it
on the footpath next to the phone booth
and nobody arched an eyebrow.
so they reckon this is paris?
it's 6.21pm on an october evening
and the sun is glowing on a single chimney 100m high
to the north towards the window-seat sex shops of pigalle.
how did i find myself here?
not in front of this café where i sit drinking crisp beer,
but in paris itself in this month, this year, this second?
something will happen and then something else will happen.
i will drink this beer, i will eat these chips,
i will call you tomorrow or the next day or the next,
we will meet for coffee or lunch,
we will make plans that neither of us will keep,
we will raise our eyebrows at the actions of strangers
and imagine what our children will look like,
we will catch buses and recommend each other books,
we will argue over menus and rescue each other from hangovers,
we will find ourselves in places we feel lost;
and then there's the louvre and north coast beaches
and then there's canada and trains in the night
and there's bands in london and food poisoning on koh samui,
sunday afternoons at watsons bay while our only era exists,
or clovelly for fish and chips and
the western desert of my imagination
and we will see renaissance clouds in natural habitat
and watch the sky fade to baby's room pink and blue on chimney above.
the kids playing on the metro grill have upped proverbial stumps
(and oh how i'd love to start a game of cricket in this square!)
they've done their pantomime play of urchins for the day
and tourists walk by and look at us "regulars" in insolent repose.
yeah, 'this is paris', i'd say,
and 'so this is a version of living', i say in a text message to a friend
that i doubt will get through
to the other end.
Lessons I have learned so far in Paris:
If a street looks like a one-way street
It's a two-way street.
If a street looks like a two-way street
It's best avoided altogether.
If you are walking on the footpath
Resist every inclination in your soul
To pass people on the left-hand side:
Chaos will ensure otherwise.
Don't buy the sandwich with ricotta
Thinking it's brie and
Expect to not feel nauseous afterwards
Or to have a bowel movement for a week.
Don't confess your English skills
Or that you're Australian when you hear
Three Australian women comment favourably
Amongst themselves about you.
Don't stare at the man who is the spitting image
Of footballer Willie Mason
But is carrying a baguette and
Wearing a jaunty waistcoat.
If you see five police vans
Racing towards some apparent incident,
Rest assured, there will be no incident and
Become aware of the fact that they just might be
The same five police vans every day just doing laps of the city
As a tourist service.
Realise that blokes wearing berets
Are not being ironic and try not the laugh at them.
Don't strike up a conversation with a woman
In a café by genuinely asking her
What the name of the street is
While sitting under a sign saying it's name.
Avoid eye contact with
Men with tattoos on their necks
(good advice for all around the world, in fact)
(to be updated as necessary)