O my beloved city,
How many times have I deserted you
For the sights and sounds of Babylon?
How often and from how far
Have I conjured your broad boulevards
O Quartier Latin, crowded street cafés
With white and scarlet awnings, gold
Adornings on stone cupolas, Byzantine domes
And plinths of equine statuary before
The Gare du Nord, grumbling fading
Faience of the Gare de l'Est?
Often, O how often, did I mingle with your crowds
Crossing the Pont Mirabeau in their Sunday best,
Regretting my lost loves, watching the barges
Snail along the Seine, hearing the bells
Of the Angelus dawn?
Exiled in the south and in a new century,
I recall leisurely Sundays on the Grande Jatte;
The children in sun hats knelt by their boats
Unfurling handkerchiefs for sails and for supreme farewells
(Shall I return? Steamer with your poised masts
Raising anchor for exotic climes?)
The bells of Sacré Coeur shake rickety tables
Where old men in blazers sport the Légion d'Honneur.
Priests in birettas sip Green Chartreuse over their
Breviaries while Wilde and Gide stroll round Père
Lachaise vying to outdo each other's tinted
Memories of soft-skinned Moroccan boys.
Weary of their weariness and of my own, and of
Rimbaud and Verlaine's battle of strophe and
Anti-strophe and rhetoric's demise, I take a
Lacquered tram to the Bois de Boulogne, hoping
To catch Mistinguette's last song.