LETTER FROM PARIS IN FEBRUARY 2015

From Margo Berdeshevsky

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

 

Living in the Shadows of Winter and all the etceteras…

It is long. It is cold. It is complicated. It’s Russian roulette, I nod. It can happen anywhere. It does It has. It will. It might. Shining is in short supply every where … and/but we keep at it. Are all wars different from each other, a woman friend asks. The question … the very one I have been nodding to as I watch baby soldiers, so young, so young, with their sub machine guns held at half mast like almost but not quite teen aged erections. As they pace or parade or show the streets that weapons are present … Don’t make trouble, don’t shoot anyone else. Not now. Not this week. Never again. There will be no more terror. Or there will.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

This time, it had happened to irreverent  and challenging cartoon journalists and to a Muslim policeman and to Friday Sabbath shoppers, all in the city of light.

And we are all— all filled with unanswerable questions and observations. Today, tomorrow and all the mornings after. What can a child make of the face of the fallen? What will the fallen make of us who remain?

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

The most poignant articulation I saw afterwards, of the many many words and cries that fill and filled the streets all month here in Paris, was this one —

In the now famous march on January 11th, following the “attacks,” a march of two million plus, strong—one Franciscan friar carried a sign that listed not only the phrase that all knew, Je suis … (Charlie,) but it said “JE SUIS” and proceeded to name not only the 17 victims, but the three assailants, as well. His sign listed 20 names, not 17.

Rimbaud said it for us long before:  je est un autre.  I whispered these words to myself, as I joined the march: je est un autre: What can it mean to be all the kinds of human we all are? je suis charlie. je suis ahmed/ je suis charlie/ je suis un autre/je suis ahmed/ je suis charlie/ je suis ahmed/ je suis charlie/ je suis un autre/je suis ahmed/ je suis charlie/ je suis ahmed/ je suis charlie/ je suis un autre/je suis ahmed/ je suis charlie/ je suis ahmed/ je suis charlie/ je suis un autre/je suis ahmed/ je suis Charlie …

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

And I whispered and shouted along with the throng: Bless all who refuse to serve or to uphold hatred, and /or to uphold the occupation(s) of lands, AND of our minds, now, or ever. A note of hope: in yesterday’s huge demonstration in Paris, for humanity, and against hatred, …many many young of all ethnicities had climbed the Marianne statue in the center of la Place de la République. From its heights, flags of many many nations were waved, and amid the cries into the wind– could be heard this one over and over: “Palestine/Israel, Palestine/Israel Palestine/Israel …” as though for one moment, in that atmosphere, the two could stand together for peace instead of war. let it be! let it be. let it be. And for now, bless all who believe in peace, … for refusing to be a tool of hatred.

And on the face of the Arab Institute (l’Institut du Monde Arabe)  facing the Seine, and the marchers and all who ask for impossible answers, the words Nous Sommes Tous Charlie, in French and in Arabic, shone in a metallic winter light.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

While on a pavement in front of the Marianne statue at the Place de la Répubique, , an artist penned her words  of solidarity, that Palestine loves France.  That to be an artist might mean to die… And someone left a pen and tiny candles, to commemorate the murdered Charlie: that Charlie will live. Art will live, even in such times as ours …

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
charlie vivra-charlie will live on
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

And someone made another makeshift altar in the dark to beg us to remember that we are Charlie, we are Jew, we are Cop, we are Muslim—all.

I am charlie, Jew, cop, Muslim
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

~

At dinner with a German friend born in East Berlin in World War 2 (how we still capitalize those words…)   I whispered my present “day-mare.” My odd shock at being here now, where Kalishnikovs kill irreverent cartoon journalists and kosher Friday shoppers  and I—never quite believing I too would live in wartime, find that I am, and am—surprised to remember that I thought I never would live in a time of “history.” Yes, another time of war. But this one does not yet have capital letters, or does it? The German friend stared at me …but Margo, it has never ended. Just changed uniform. Yes. I nod. War. Yes. Never ended. Yes.

Meanwhile, there is a  National Archives exhibit on, just now, here in Paris. Rooms and rooms of memorabilia to tell the story the French did not tell for so many years, post war. The Collaborators. The Resistance—but yes the collaborators. And who was who? I saw it last week, a little more than a week after the recent attacks—and I thought — who are the occupiers now, and who—the collaborators? The enraged ones kill. They could occupy. Are they the new Germans? The new Americans? Who are the wealthy bankers who are despised? Who were/are the colonialists? Who are the evil doers, day after day, do I know?  Somewhere else…or here…. We are occupied by—one another. We collaborate with—one another.

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

~

 I had read a book some years ago about the writers and artists and film makers in France who published during the occupation — as one does today. Who collaborated in order to do their lives. Cocteau. Stein. Picasso, and and, and … I have nothing  left but the big and the awful questions. And a chill that will not stop seeing baby boy soldiers with sub machine guns all over the streets of the city of light. In pairs. In threes. In fours. While the winter season of marked-down shoes and coat sales goes on with signs in every window of my historic  neighborhood. While the church bells toll for high noon. While the soldiers stand in front of synagogues and mosques and churches and schools. While people whisper that they are afraid. While they laugh and make love as always. While it might snow today. Or not. While only yesterday, again, again… two Japanese were beheaded by the ones called ISIL, in another very dark day, and the Japanese president is now rattling his sword. Vowing revenge, all of us , mourning and vowing revenge, war upon war upon war…

One woe doth tread upon another’s heels, so fast they follow. (Hamlet’s mother had it right…)

Or didn’t  Yeats say it well enough for then—and now:

The swan has leaped into the desolate heaven;
That image can bring wildness, bring a rage
To end all things, to end
What my laborious life imagined, even
The half-imagined, the half-written page;
O but we dreamed to mend
Whatever mischief seemed
To afflict mankind, but now
That winds of winter blow
Learn that we were crack-pated when we dreamed.”

 —Yeats [Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.”}

 

My friends still write to ask if it is safe to visit Paris these days. While it is winter. or in the spring. I answer that yes, in principle …Everywhere is safe.  And… And again and again, we must ask ourselves: Will there be singing in the dark times? “Yes,” Brecht. told us after one war… “There will be singing about the dark times.”  

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

~

Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky

Afterwards, I had said this to my friends: What we had was a manifestation of the human. We have seen the future, and it is us. Here in Paris – yes, it was a horrendous day, and there are no excuses or ways to comprehend the hatred that is the river we bent to, or walked beside. And sometimes, yes, the one we drown in.

We told one another to be careful, all…but we knew that. We all knew that. In such times, there is little way to hide our eyes or our hearts. The once so-called freedom of press or language or art is what had been attacked, this time. And the freedom to be a human who walks in safety is questioned now, and now, and now….  As it has been always. We just forget. we just pretend that maybe it is not now… Not the first time. and likely, not the last. For everyone. Not for one race or one people. For all of us.  If I ever doubted that in my lifetime I would know what other wartime civilizations have “night-mared”  … or wondered or tried to un-imagine …  I do not doubt it, now. I think about it day after day. One hides. One steps out, to be human. One retreats. One is alive. One considers how being alive is temporary. One has zero tolerance for hatred from any quarter. From any policy or leadership or religion or race. And one tries like hell to remember to love.

                                                    TU N’EST PAS SEUL: YOU ARE NOT ALONE...                                                       Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
TU N’EST PAS SEUL: YOU ARE NOT ALONE…
Photo © Margo Berdeshevsky
(dessin de Martina Leingruber)

“We are adhering to life now with our last muscle – the heart.” {Djuna Barnes}

With Much care, from margo in Paris, Winter, 2015

MARGO BERDESHEVSKY

*Interview @ Poetry International: https://pionline.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/a-poets-bakers-dozen-interview-with-margo-berdeshevsky/

http://margoberdeshevsky.blogspot.com

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

#16 margo's books_mbb

 

 

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5 comments

  1. Deeply insightful, deeply ambiguous. B/W photography brillliant. There is incredable evil in the world now, echoing th third reich. Wishing for a better world will never root it out.We haven’t quite evolved from the crusades, the inquisition, the jewish cleansing, the serbian cleansing, and northern Ireland etc. Reach deep down, under the rock of religion and you will find the cancer ready to spread and the acolytes ready to spred it.

  2. What I realized also is that terrorism arises in people who like to terrorize, and who are not sensitive political organizers hoping to rescue their native communities; they know how to indoctrinate people who are insecure and uncertain of their future. Hitler recruited hardened criminals for the Gestapo, pulling them directly from prisons to go into the streets and terrorize people into submission and conciliation. These actions today, just as in Hitler’s time, bear no relation to politics, religion or ideology and do not represent an act of love for God; it is sui generis, the nature of all things evil.

  3. […] MARGO BERDESHEVSKY’S most recent poetry collection is Between Soul and Stone, (Sheep Meadow Press.) Her But a Passage in Wilderness was also published by Sheep Meadow Press. Beautiful Soon Enough, (University of Alabama Press), her book of stories illustrated with her own photo-montages, received FC2s  Innovative Fiction Award; other honors include the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Chelsea Poetry Award, the & Now Innovative Fiction Award Anthology. Her works have appeared in journals including Kenyon Review, Agni, Pleiades, New Letters, Poetry International, The Collagist, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Tupelo Quarterly, Cutthroat. Forthcoming, a multi-genre novel, Vagrant. At the gate: a new poetry manuscript titled Blason Pour le Corps. Born in NYC, Berdeshevsky is currently writing in Paris. Her Letters from Paris can be seen here: https://pionline.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/letter-from-paris-in-february-2015/ […]

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