Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Paris of the West, The Paris of the Middle East

Perhaps the message is
You will know
what it is

to be trapped in your homes like rats*;
you will never go anywhere
where lots of you gather;

your public sphere is full of air,
and we will deflate it.

Or perhaps it is only
the message John Milton
assigned to Lucifer,
who would rather
rule in hell than serve in heaven.

But then again, where
is heaven?

When I landed at Charles DeGaulle
in 1989, I thought I'd attained it,
just months after Lockerbee,
a few months before the Berlin Wall
came down. Americans,
we tsked-tsked about LePen
and apologized for Reagan.
It occurred to me the stars and stripes
that flew outside our residence
could attract violence,
and French friends made me wary
of Algerian men I met
on Boulevard Jourdan.

Just this summer at the Stones
concert, high up in the stands,
I looked for the exits. Maybe heaven
has to do with clouds
of oblivion and distance.
And maybe the message is a clear sky
and nothing to get to
but this place bristling with weapons
and history and hell. As a teen,
I was often scolded for having
my head in the clouds. It was a luxury
so many didn't have. Maybe
there isn't a message at all.
Milton wrote best
when he thought
the revolution would succeed:
A regicide had to mean something,
Cromwell had to rule in hell to serve heaven.
Before long, the typologies cancelled themselves out.

Now the younger LePen calls for annihilation
and the Internet churns out
the messaging.
When the news anchor says this is our
world war, this is our
dent in history, I shrink to the size
of an ancestor I've never met
buffeted by factors, dispatched by dates on a timeline.

*From Emily Carlson's Symphony No. 2