Thursday, November 02, 2006

full circle
(my father on
his first visit to paris, 1948)

By Adam Gibson

Bobby drinks two tart glasses of rough red
in a small room near the place de clichy

i know the place, i say,
i stayed near there too!
he can't believe it.

in the spray of memory
he walks out on that first day,
onto the champs élysée

me too, i say, i've been there,
were you heading to the arc de triomphe?
yes, he says,
up there ahead,
"the big gate".

a long northern twilight
the milk sun fading
across the atlantic and
he strolls along the champs élysée,
stops, thinks:
"i can't believe i'm here".

just what i said,
just how i felt.

at the arc de triomphe
he crosses and lands of the roundabout,
traffic relentless even in 1948 –
my own father,
watching cars go past,
unable to cross,
and me
exactly 20 years from birth.

with electric eyes
i would later stand
on that roundabout too
with no idea
he had been there.

smells in his nose,
eyes wide,
a tram driver he met,
the woman who showed him his room,
it's exact cost.

he finishes the red and slides to bed,
wakes the next day to the tight paris light,
a hangover which, he said, lasted for three days
ringing in his head.

me too I would say if i could:
and thus I have made
a full circle.

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