Letter from Paris, Autumn 2013

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.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

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.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

By next year, it’ll be gone or replaced. What has staying power—the cry for love, I suppose. Only that.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

And in between, ironic fancy frames hold reminders of some of what we know is not good for us.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

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?

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

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.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

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?

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Or to suggest that our illusions of liberty are toys? What might it take to restore our health? I keep walking.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

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.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

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.)

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

The youngest among us may be framed by the days.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

But in the city of light, aren’t there are other wings hovering? Someone wants us to know that. Even on its stained walls.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

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.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

with much care, as ever,

Margo

MARGO BERDESHEVSKY:

http://margoberdeshevsky.blogspot.com/

 Amazon Author page: http://amazon.com/author/margoberdeshevsky

margo

12 comments

  1. Oh my this is really beautiful!

  2. Suze

    Yes, darkness (personal, political), but sometimes, light (political, personal) and always words, words, words. Love your work my friend.

  3. Astonishing. Berdeshevsky is either the Beckett or the Proust of the camera.

  4. Thanks Margo for this decadent & poignant autumn window-

  5. Jennifer Heath

    Unbelievably powerful. And alarming. And beautiful.

  6. there are no words for my reply

  7. Harvey Solin

    Brilliant, touching, WONDERFUL. Margo has put her finger on the wonder and tragedy of the human condition.
    We are all hanging on here by our fingernails but what a wonderful view!

  8. Merci Bien, Margo! Hope our paths cross soon.

  9. Bob Bragar

    “Souls in crisis” is spot on. Margo, thank you for this important capturing of France’s crisis of spirit. Even in crisis, Paris is beautiful.

  10. Jeffrey Greene

    You should work with a gallery too. I love the way you juxtaposed the images so patterns and themes pick up on one to the other along with the politics and spiritual angst.

  11. moira sauvage

    how come, dear Margo, that I’ve been living in Paris for decades and never saw all these wonderful things?????Bravo for the photographer’s eye!

  12. LOVE. My favorite is the raven above the window. Seconded by Ra.

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