Into Candles and Soap

Inhale those odours within
la Ville Lumière – of corpse wax

found among her exhumed
Draw on le cimetière des Innocents

An old miasma off rotting flesh
lingers in time’s stillness

above French Empires of Death
atop her levelling grounds

Citizens sought
salubrious solutions

as well as judicial balance
by opening wide old books

by breaking cracking spines
glued by their learned dead writers

Thinkers took routes dug through
others – now equal – as bones

Inert citizens will never stop
troubling the living of Paris

Fighting in Newhaven

Here Ho Chi Minh – under
his pseudonym of Thàn
served travellers’ pastries
on a French ship routed
from Newhaven’s docks

His silver service ways
and polished tableware
have been long-buried
under that now piled skyline
of scrap metal and waste

Still a French ferry – but today
slipping out to diesel rumbles –
with beer-plied pleasure seekers –
holidaymakers – and
a deck of saturnine truckers

In this light a ghost-white hull –
Turner’s Fighting Temeraire
awaits clearance to enter
and roll her weak bow wave
through her last high tide

But she is no more than a fret
breathed out by those who lust
for lost British sea power
This slumped harbour reeks
of sun-dried fishing nets

Below its fort’s high facade
Newhaven’s battalion collapsed –
West Beach fell to le Tricolore
Sussex were druv when a strip
of her sand was lost to France

It would be easy to follow steps
and reach an edge of this island
but stupor and heat keep me seated
Rust is pre-eminent in Newhaven
There is no revolutionary cure

War Poets

Paul Verlaine’s Chanson d’automne
was coded – still popular poetry –
to give notice –

his long sobs of French-sung violins
declared an Allied invasion
to those listening

Whilst she never understood speeches
of love – and our common
mistakes –

I would rarely read to her – she rarely read
my mutterings – my weight-pared
compositions

She never understood what was being said
She found poetry too difficult
Her own résistance

 

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Smoke Over Paris

Their Lady of Paris burnt
in one online afternoon
Her re-imagined spire
tipped to robes of smoke

like a bloodied lance
in surrender – once more –
to politics and holy battles
in a kindless fog of war

Her heated metals ran
as dark beaded sweats
from her swealing heights
to leave cooled scabs

of Saint Thomas – and others –
spattered across worn stones
under her collapsed transept
Those slabs will be saved

with high relics – rescued
from clouds above la quatrième
No puzzle of scattered ashes –
France has her couronne d’épines