Parisian backstreets are not here

Parisian backstreets are not here,
not behind the service station orange lights
or down the street which ends
with the blue cashflow machine.

Young people drinking,
laughing at nothing, simply being.
Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir
in the corner holding hands.

Sidney Bechet rests his clarinet
on the bar, watches the big screen.
Langston Hughes in the kitchen
doing dishes, sipping champagne.

I walk three times past the hotdog stand
looking for Parisian backstreets,
for glamorous dancers and artist’s wives,
for Edith Piaf.

The Parisian backstreets are not here
and it’s not enough to answer the question
from the man in the jacket
who looks like Camus.


Published in Poetry NZ 42, March 2011.


Portrait of the artist as a parent of young children

I’m off
down the alleyway
between the fortress
and the museum

the kids
asleep in the car,
windows open a crack
—it’s alright
I’ve left them the keys

I’ve got things to do:

1. visit an angry poet
aawho sells vitamins

2. see a psychiatrist who can teach me
aarhyme and meter

3. sit in a café
aaand wait for her

4. catch a train to an outer suburb
aain revolt

5. walk the streets with a harmonica
aain my pocket

no time—stuff the rest
of my lines in my mouth,
run back to the kids

an ice-block for each of them,
a loaf of bread, milk
and a cheap bottle
of merlot.


Published in Poetry NZ 42, March 2011.