The tour guide declares his love for Simone Veil
but I’m still thinking of Gertrude Stein, though,
with its outdoor café and carousels
of postcards, Shakespeare & Co. is less bookstore
than tourist-trap. Our guide leads us into a nearby church
that looks, I confess, like every other church I’ve seen in Europe:
stained glass narratives of men quarreling with saints,
white stone sculptures of shrouded women,
their hands cupped as if waiting to catch a dropped egg.
What would Gertrude do, as good a question as any.
I imagine her lying supine in one of the pews,
smoking a French cigarette from a blue tinfoil pack,
a glass dish of uncracked Brazil nuts beside her.
Finally this poet has made it to Paris but I’m as far
from prayer as ever, though there is a moment of—
relief? refuge?—dipping into Saint-Étienne-du-Mont
on a July day in Paris, kneeling at the tomb of Pascal just
to catch my breath. A woman pulls a scarf around
her shoulders, steps into and out of shadow. I pay
a euro to light a candle. Prayer is the recognition
that you are alone, I once read on the bumper
of a pickup truck. Red paint rusted and chipped.
Angels perch atop the pipe organ, arms reaching
down—toward me? The others in line behind me?
When I bow my head I hear stones clattering—no—
the click of a camera shutter, or a dozen eyes fluttering shut.
I’ve already forgotten which
is the candle I lit.
Christine Kitano is author of the poetry collections Sky Country (BOA Editions) and Birds of Paradise (Lynx House Press). She is an assistant professor at Ithaca College and teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
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HOXIE GORGE REVIEW