LETTER FROM PARIS, autumn 2013
from Margo Berdeshevsky
And These boots were made for walkin’… Is my world going to hell? Probably. Yours? Maybe. Probably. Warning: This post may offer a darkling vision. Paris, well known as city of light holds a dark kind of poetry too, always has for its wanderers, between its many walls. I collect its impulses toward poetry, its cries in the long nights, for something we still believe in as art. A word maybe harder to define than ever. I’ve always called poetry “the language of the soul,” and in its very more aggressive ways, what I’ve seen on the streets of Paris is a language of the soul. Souls in crisis, angry sometimes like kids banging on a piano. But making their own kind of poetry. Signed, unsigned, ephemeral, aggressive, important. An uneven boundary between word and image.
Toni Morrison has written: “We die. That may be the meaning of live. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are gone for this year, done again, for this bewildering 2013. It’s autumn again. I’m in Paris again. The deadening trees are making their gasps of blood and plasma. Flaming gorgeously, again, too, on someone else’s pages. The chill is threading through the leaves again. There are bells again. A cacophony of them. The ever present Seine. And I’m walking.
All this year, I’ve been collecting images at the walls of my city. Most of them are actually an ongoing auto-da-fé, now you see them, now you won’t—because that’s the nature of street art—art and language happen and collide. Live until someone else pushes that expression and that voice off the stage to make room for themselves. Live until another one takes over. Here then are leaves I’ve been gathering as they flare and as they fall. By next year they will be buried under new ones.
Last year’s cry for revolution in one of the many other cities, or in what we think are other desert lands— is buried under newer ones. This painted voice is one of a frightening mix of a weapon and an ankh, and it has somehow remained, calling someone to join that revolution, asking who or what is free.
By next year, it’ll be gone or replaced. What has staying power—the cry for love, I suppose. Only that.
And in between, ironic fancy frames hold reminders of some of what we know is not good for us.
And in between, too, the questioning of a free press, globally and locally. Does it exist. Is it free. This wall stopped me again and again until it, too, was whitewashed and gone—, asking with the single word, libre? — are we all as free as we think or wish or pretend?
While this next piece confronts one of the darkest interrogations of our time—What about the gun? What about the uses of it? The horrors it offers? The “self” it threatens? And what about when it falls into the hands of a child? Rhetorical questions? Living on the streets of Paris as in the rest of our world—still—it makes me cry.
But in its most aggressive imaging, this kind of art, this kind of poetry might insinuate a surreal hope; might recall St Augustine’s —”Restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.” I walk for a day with that in my mind and heart. What might it take to restore our health?
Or to suggest that our illusions of liberty are toys? What might it take to restore our health? I keep walking.
I carry seedpod of a memory of last spring in my pocket. Last spring—or whenever there was more light. Ask it to hover over our windows. Please.
And one day I come upon an abandoned instrument against its wall of scrawled language, an image of a destroyed music. It haunts me. It makes me think of the child upstairs from me, who’s not yet a musician—who’s banging on his mother’s piano—one fingered notes interrupted by flat-palmed piano attacks that leak noise through the ceiling and bang out his frequent four-year-old rages. But my anxious world slams its fists the same way too, bangs its poor head against crisis after crisis, dreams or threatens that our poetry is dying again. (It’s not, I want to insist. It’s not.)
The youngest among us may be framed by the days.
But in the city of light, aren’t there are other wings hovering? Someone wants us to know that. Even on its stained walls.
And on a good day…clearly…at least in the mirrors…one can still see Proust. Wordy as he was—a lover of language, and of remembered, and remembered again—light.
with much care, as ever,
Amazon Author page: http://amazon.com/author/margoberdeshevsky