Letter From Paris in March

From Margo Berdeshevsky

Notes from this side of the Seine:

Paris, winter rides into spring, 2011


Winter Seine
photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Winter Seine


Dear ones, Winter was “icumin in, laude sing goddam.” Well it did. And hence,  a quiet winter season where one wanted to hide, mostly, and think of nothing. Except perhaps a solarized and pewter river. Or the sound of bronchitis. Everyone I know in Paris was bundled and fevered and hiding from the pewter skies, if they could. If not, the street held them in icy hands.



photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Shoe-on-ice

Those who had nowhere at all to battle winter became the ever tragic silhouettes of the streets.



Paris, Ground Level
photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Paris, Ground Level


And as ever… little boys wanted to be bigger boys.



Big Boyz Bikes
photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Big Boyz Bikes


And steps led up and down the chill…to winter dreaming of when, if ever, our dreams might turn warm, our poetry matter…


Steps to the Seine
photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Steps to the Seine

Elsewhere in the city,  it was Sunday, the Seine was a quiet dragon, I was thinking,  the statuary of lions pacing, and the last breaths of the collective human armor, more fragile than ever, nakedness of soul, more obvious just below the river’s yellowed shimmer.

Lion Walk
photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Lion Walk

Occasionally, I headed to my favorite park, the Luxembourg, once endowed for art and culture by the Medicis. (Interesting tidbit: Queen Catherine de Medici was once known as Madame Snake, and whilst a patron of the cooking and balletic arts, and married to French Henri II, she was also one of the most Machiavellian of rulers. A friend recently posed the question, in this time of multi and dire male dictators, were there as many such women? Catherine was an obvious example. She did have a propensity for poison. But, she had money. And the artichoke, which she brought to France, and the ballet—all benefited.)

The later de Medici, Marie, made a treasure of the Luxembourg gardens and its palace.

Marie de Médici 1
photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Marie de Médici 1


Marie de Médici 2




And so, for me, this winter…back to the Luxembourg gardens…Stark with the season’s silence, the statues danced, almost in defiance of the cold. Statues, empty green old-lady  chairs, the near nakedness… and the wind was rising against a slate sky, and I stopped in front of the park fence. I remembered a year earlier, seeing a display on the tall iron fence that surrounds the park—which had grabbed me like necessary hands. Now, I remembered it. In defiance of the weather and my mood. In honor, in my way, of the revolutions that are all around us, now. In thought, in heart, and in memory.

The photos I was remembering from last year were these: huge weatherproofed photographs of Viet Nam’s “river of new dragons,” (that’s what was written on the fence, and I was again arrested by the coincidence of that and my own river-crossing thoughts) … Under the very first, a photograph of a sleeping mother and son, adrift on the muddy river, dead or alive, one wasn’t quite sure…and below the image, I read this poem by one of Vietnam’s most renowned poets, Lam Thi My Da. “Hoa Lu” was the name of the ancient capital. And with a poet’s whisper, I remembered that “Hoa Loa” was the name of that once infamous and longtime prison, the Hanoi Hilton.


Viet Nam Poem
photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Viet Nam Poem

Viet Nam, Hoa Lu

“If one day I melt into the moonlight

oh my child, transform yourself into a rice field …

If one day, I change myself into a prairie

oh my love, be a little calf …

If one day, I dissolve into a river

oh, my darling, become the light …

If one day, I change into a sail

oh, my child, transform yourself into the wind …”

If I were : Lam Thi My Da (1949)

a famous lady poetess in Viet Nam

Throughout this hard winter, so many fighting and dreaming people around the world believing “if I were….” As the winter and the thought of transformation stayed with me, so did this poem.

And still without regrets… was dear Edith Piaf overseeing us, yet and still? I dared hope the answer to be yes.

Piaf on a wall
photo © by Margo Berdeshevsky, Piaf on a wall

Margo Berdeshevsky :


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


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


  1. My husband’s description of his ride through Paris –crowded with other GI’s in the back of an Army truck…blistering hot 2:00AM, street lined with cheering people…man holding up a
    bottle-as he leaned down to take it someone kissed him on ear
    Summer 1944…wine, flowers, kisses…trucks moving slowly
    thru crowds … the day of liberation

  2. Dear Margo, You are a good photographer, the shoe in the ice is just outstanding. I truly love the location of the shoe and also the diagonal lines of the ice. Most of all, I admire how you finished on a cautious positive note “I dared hope the answer to be yes.”

  3. ms. berdeshevsky:
    i have no interest in having this show up in “comments.” and did not the previous piece i sent woth sojourner truth’s address. but i have no other address for you.
    in fact, i have no guarantee this gets to you, either. after a reasonably exhaustive search i am unable to find even a peep about piaf at the waldorf. in fact, i’m not sure i remember why i was interested. i may have been ten or eleven. anyway, I saw iaf in a corner on a wall of a photo by you, letter:march, 2011. if i ever get back i’d like to know which corner, which wall that would be. yrs, rd coleman


    not too young to fall in love.
    too young to see her perform.
    i heard my uncle say,
    “she is street…coarse…
    no real voice…no discipline…
    no training…no musicianship..”
    he’d never spoken like that
    of a performer before. she
    was singing at the waldorf,
    his orchestra.on the stand.

    i remember all this as i listen
    to a gala on the radio,
    an opening celebration
    for a “performance space”
    for wnyc, a radio station:
    I hear a european singer:
    voice honed for smoke free cabarets,
    smart phrasing, throaty timbre,
    a perfect accompanist, singing piaf.
    no sense of an empty belly,
    no salope, not even desire,
    no rough from alcohol in the voice,
    no drugs, no cigarettes,
    no violence, no smoky
    nightclub or bar or parisian
    playhouse in her voice.
    politely, the new york audience

    had i been old enough,
    i would have gone alone,
    (never, of course, let in)
    to listen to piaf, the little sparrow,
    a few songs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s