The Starlings of Paris


The starlings of Paris perform their ballet
in light above The Pantheon.
In a Paris courtyard on Rue des Irlandais
horn-blowers are blowing
for the twilight fandango,
there’s a crooner in harmony with the brass,
dancing shoes kick up sparks.
It’s like a crowd scene in a movie,
revellers going wild
because they’re on the victory side.

A rising moon hides, appears and hides again
in night-clouds crowning Notre Dame.
In fashions from the vintage market
all are dressed for a time in the past -
the first days of peace in 1945
when flag-wavers waved the Stars and Stripes
at boys from Nebraska
with Normandy sand in their eyes.
These light-footed partners
look like couples in a parody of the nights
when war was over for the lucky soldier,
the sailor too who saw land again.


In her Paris shawl she walks with me,
back to where we came that summer we turned and missed
Baudelaire’s christening church but saw his early grave.
In the famous museum young Rembrandt’s eyes are glistening.
The Honey Locust comes into bloom like a third-day miracle.

On Rue Descartes the evening is beginning
with a soup du jour that burns my tongue.
Our waiter is a man with information.
He tells us we are sitting at Hemingway’s table,
that Verlaine died in a room upstairs.

Gone are the barricades and gone the man who played
with sweet finesse his twangling instrument -
six sombre strings sounding wistful -
                                                      one breaking like a wishbone.

Gerard Smyth