Letter from Paris in November

from Margo Berdeshevsky

Paris, late autumn, 2010


Copyright 2010 by Margo Berdeshevsky, "Paris Empty Chairs"

Dear Ones:

I’ve been on the road these recent days. But carrying my European and Parisian-influenced mentality with me along the way, I aver. I won’t comment here on the endless French strikes; or even on the most recent American losses; there is and has been more than plenty of that elsewhere. But I thought, as a result, and not infrequently, and again—of the José Saramago poems I’d been continuing to translate all these months.


With unsure weight I yield

To scales I always declined.

A time comes—to know what weighs most:

The judgment, the witness, or the judged?

I place all that I am on the platter:

Some of the raw, not all, that made me,

The vanishing dream, despair’s

Brutal grasp, or shunting

The shadow that measures my days;

I place my minute life, my frail frame,

My mundane betrayals and hates,

My taste for slipping in between the stars,

Lay there—what there is of love, its urgency,

Certainty of being that could never be,

Unless you would to come to weigh me, poetry.

by José Saramago (translation by margo berdeshevsky)

Soon enough, I was in Gotham. NYC met me with is own darkness and need for balance. Its multiple signs that the energy bills our planet so needs: leave black smoke and skies of dangers we know, and continue to ignore.

Copyright 2010 by Margo Berdeshevsky, "NYC Dawn"

Throughout the States, admittedly, I beheld the other worrisome signs of fundamentalism and its awful irony and even satire. My trails had crossed from Paris to New York City, then on to the University of Tulsa Oklahoma to teach a class in cross genre poetry and poetic prose, and back to New York, and back once more to Paris. Worrisome pre and post election days in the USA followed me. Sometimes, the pictures I witnessed, the comments I listened to—told quite enough, or even too much.

Copyright 2010 by Margo Berdeshevsky, "Downtown Tulsa OK"

With the eyes of one who does not live in the USA as often as I used to, images struck, stayed, and returned to haunt me. Again, I thought of Saramago. And this time, of his tiny two poems about the young:

Juliet and Romeo

It is late my love,wind is rising,

Mute dawn will be born,

Only night was our lucidity,

Never again what I was, what we’ll

Become will face the refusing world,

Guilty of conceiving freedom.

Romeo and Juliet

I go on, my love, but I leave life

Here, in the heat of a bed I abandon,

Scattered sands that were once hill.

If night were to create day, and with

The light, put distance in between,

May the shadow-lands reunite us.

poems by José Saramago (translation by margo berdeshevsky)


Back in Paris, I arrived in time for the earliest breaths of November and Le Toussaint, (otherwise known as All Saints’ Day.) I breathed in the restless city of light once more, and was not unhappy to be back—even to peer into its darker and often lonely corners.

Copyright 2010 by Margo Berdeshevsky, "Lost au Luxembourg"

Copyright 2010 by Margo Berdeshevsky "All Saints Day Church Door"









At Saint Gervais, possibly my favorite church in the heart of the city, the ancient Marais, the silhouetted scene I photographed reminded me of what the dark holds: its truths, its metaphors, even as the saints go marching on.

And—on the return—I witnessed a simple human tale of the very, very old. It drew me into a hard circle of All Saints’ Day, and on to the following Day of the Dead, in all poignancy. I was meeting with my favorite elder who is a mere 99 years old. She had a broken rib and was in terrible pain.

She has fallen before, but this was worse. She is older. Still, leaning on two rosewood canes, she stands to meet me at her door—I with hands full of white roses and fruit tarts, I want to kiss her, but I am so afraid of her bones, of her ribs, her pain. Her apartment is airless with the afternoon heat of age that does not leave its cages often, anymore. She leans more heavily on her canes. She’s dressed in periwinkle and has taken the time to brush her thinned upswept blondness, just for me, I think. She finally sits, and she puffs at her hair as though to make it full and lush as it was when she was under fifty and she was my English teacher, and sat on the desk top facing her classes—her high heeled “gams” dangling. Her students all remember that detail, still. Golden hairs now catch in between her long-nailed fingers that are more like claws, and she is losing her golden hairs, and she shakes them to the floor with annoyance. But she is Bel. And beautiful.

The preceding night—now she is eager to tell me—she had awakened thinking she’d written two damn good lines of poetry: Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me. She averred that the word “kindly” did sound like Dickinson, but she’d looked on her shelf and could not find the lines, so she believed she’d written them, and was no plagiarist. Unwilling to insult her, I said I’d also look on my own shelf.

“It’s time,” she thumps the side of her paper-piled table, “time for us all to receive love. I’m young. I can wait ‘til March,” she grimaces. And then she tells me again how she woke last night thinking she’d written 2 damn good lines. She worries. “I’ll look it up,” I promise, …and then, together, as I am about to leave her, we find the final verse and say it aloud, ensemble.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each

Feels shorter than the day

I first surmised the horses’ heads

Were toward eternity.

And so we ride, for November, for late autumn, for all the saints, for a little of the future, and for the international and recent past, & with all care,

Margo Berdeshevsky






Copyright 2010 by Margo Berdeshevsky, "Mother Series"


Margo Berdeshevsky :



“Beautiful Soon Enough”(Fiction Collective Two /2009)


Amazon Author page: http://tinyurl.com/ygft9wu



  1. Ah, Margo…as usual, your words are alive with life in a way that no other writes them. I march up and down tunnels of time with you in seconds, and love the ride!!! If I learned nothing else in these last years at school, it is that I am more than lucky to have writers like you to read because you make us all reach toward higher ground!!!!

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