The last time I walked the streets of the Marais, Adam was ten pounds lighter and I don’t know how many unimaginable inches smaller. Today, we strolled him around the territory that will be his later, after we return from Santa Monica: the Notre Dame, the Hotel de Ville, Rue des Archives, the park on the street off Blancs Manteaux. I could feel him getting an excess of the sense of it all: the buildings, gargoyles, statuary, crowds, small sidewalks, streetlife, bridges, river, high windows, store windows – taking it in. “Taking it in” is a phrase that, perhaps, comes from our stone age psychology. Since the 19th century, the instruments that measure the senses have become the template for what the senses are – sensitive recorders – but long before that we felt the activity of the senses, not their passivity – we took in the sensate, the eye grasps, the smell and taste extract and send down into the dark tunnels their discoveries, the touch is everywhere, everything material is a monument to the potential sensation of hands, lips, all the working skin. We come from pillagers, all of us, not from lab assistants, and we are out for swag. To take in means that one has a sort of interior “sack” that can get filled, and that is thus limited, can thus fray or burst. For a twenty two month old, there’s a continual shifting between wanting more in the sack and the sack bursting, at which point the toddler sensibly bursts into tears.
Rationalization comes upon us later, and we blame the idiots driving in cars, the street signs, the government, our loved ones, our co-workers – we pretend that the sack is infinitely elastic. You are very rarely asked, at the job interview, how much sensation you are comfortable with. Funny, that, since it determines, as much as skill, what the job is gonna go like.
There are some changes in the neighborhood, I was pleased to see in my very brief ambit. Namely, a couple of new restaurants and shops, including a bio take out place which I hope is still here when we return.
Now I sit here in the Café Charlot on Bretagne and revel a bit in the gray, somewhat rainy day. I like rainy gray summer days in Paris. Everything seems to revert to Atget black and whites. Is this merely the retro conservatism of a middling man in the upper fifties, treasuring his failed promise as though it were some perverse triumph? Well, duh. But it is also that a real city displays, under different angles of light and different seasons, the concantanations of its infinite possibilities, such as are not found on the list of addresses that guides the postal service.
I’ll end this with two poems, one a poor translation of a Baudelaire poem by me myself, and one – by the same author – written a couple years ago in the summer rain, Sinatraish mood.
Pluviôse, the whole city on his nerves,
From his overflowing urn pours a grey cold
On the pale inhabitants of the nearby cemetary
And on the mortality of the foggy neighborhoods.
On the windowsill, my cat is looking for a place to lie down,
Ceaseless stretching his thin and mangy body;
The soul of an old poet wanders in the drainpipe
With the sad voice of a reluctant ghost.
A bee drones a lament, and the smoky log in the fireplace
Accompanies the clock, which has clearly caught a cold,
With its falsetto, while in an odorous pack of cards-
fatal inheritance of some old case of dropsy-
The cute jack of hearts and queen of spades exchange
cynical remarks about their defunct affairs.
Not a very good translation. Oh well. I wrote a poem in 2011 that perhaps expresses my liking for rainy paris days better:
The rain mumbles on the terrace
Its histories of reincarnation
While we sit, eating chicken.
It’s good. Your green blouse
Is good. The wine is good.
Have the seals been opened?
The seals of the angel
Whose flaming sword
Seems like a ridiculous affectation
The warm gut of the world.
Or has apocalypse been expelled
From our private life
As the rain mumbles on the terrace
And I cut into the white meat.