Diane Seuss

(United States)

Don't say Paris


No one says Paris anymore.
There's no such thing as Paris, no
Café de la Paix, no Titian's Entombment
in the Louvre or Hotel La Sanguin
with amaranth petals on the sheets. Don't

say Paris. When you utter the word
I take off my long red gloves. I prepare
my hands to be stroked. I'm an idiot
that way, a Parisian to the bone. Once,

on some Rue or other, I was not alone.
The city, blue. My black coat opened
and gave birth to my body as I walked.
You dare speak of Paris? You unlatch

the door in the cage, that word comes
blooming out, orange feathers ignite
the room. My room the color of sage

in fog. And now, Paris, breaking
the mirrors, exposing the cobbled
alleyways behind them. Who says
Paris? Now I swirl my nipples

with Le Rouge Baiser. Or did you
mean Paris, Kentucky? Or just Paris
a word tossed off like an exploding peony
dropped from the swaying top of that tall

steel tower? Paris, a bitter word,
a word to be spit into a lace handkerchief
like the pit of some pink-fleshed fruit,
stolen from the garden of the rich, in whose

sweetness a woman like me can drown.
Paris, where I loved and suffered, where
the enemy flag opened and flared, poppy
with a spider inside. Liberation, another

suspicious bit of language, a perfumed
envelope holding no letter. Paris, you say.
I have shut down the Office de Tourisme,
covered the windows with flowering vines,

casting those rooms in purple light.
I have wrapped my lips around that word
until it throbbed like Bouguereau's
La Madone aux Roses.

Submitted: Friday, June 27, 2014

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