boring airport pictures & other thoughts on leaving

I begin again so very close to where I started, waiting in an airport. A particular & very busy airport, but also Every Airport, or what every airport signifies: departure/arrival.

Inside the idea & the process of leaving:

I have spent the better part of a week saying goodbye—not only to the Canal St. Martin, its bridges & cormorants, the quays of the chalky, milky Seine, my beloved Cézannes & Van Goghs in the Musée d’Orsay, not only to the cubist landscape of Père Lachaise & its birds—mesange bleue, mesange noire, geai des chênes & the common blackbird with its uncommon song & all those I heard but never could manage to see—not only to all this evidence of an engaging material reality, but something harder to pin down: my self  in these spaces.

Goodbye Sara Jane…

Yesterday, my last day in Paris, the blue of church windows in a painting called simply L’Église d’Auvers-sur-Oise made me cry…& I had to step out of the gallery to collect myself & because suddenly I couldn’t breathe.


Have you ever noticed how like wombs are the small, dark rooms in museums? This one was, and something about being there, looking hard at this painting, allowed me to feel vulnerable, open, about-to-be-born—or laid-to-rest—a hair’s-breadth difference existing between the two…

Who can really explain such things?

I find myself mourning the days in these last months when I couldn’t accept what the world was offering, when I couldn’t get out of the way enough to see, to hear, to smell, taste & touch.

I celebrate the simple delights, delights that keep happening: just now, bringing the wrong coffee back to the little airport café, explaining that it had milk in it, that I hadn’t wanted milk… & how the baristas understood that there’d been a mix-up & together we laughed about two coffees on the counter & me in my eagerness grabbing the wrong one.


Or the delight of finding the just-right silly gifts for my grandchildren at a kiosk near the Tuileries Garden & the clerks’ surprise that I could transact the business in passable French–(if my French is passable, others must fairly croak the words out!)

((In case you are curious: I bought a mini Eiffel Tower, a Paris snow globe, bike license plates that say Eva & Ben & Paris on them, & a puzzle featuring a soccer game played with Paris monuments in the background…ooh-la-la…

& six-year-old Eva will be playing soccer again; maybe as soon as this weekend I will be standing on the sidelines, recklessly cheering for BOTH sides on a spring day in my town where the soggy green field, its muddy tang, & the girls in their colorful shirts & socks, will likely make me cry, as if something new is happening while another thing is being laid to rest in a place I know well yet hardly at all…))

Meanwhile, I am leaving & arriving, both. A friend challenged me to take what he calls “boring pictures” on this journey across many time zones. Here are some of those pictures,

for few undertakings are as banal as the interiors of trains & airports & airplanes….& the way we often don’t’ see what is passing so terribly quickly by us, so terribly quickly by…


cemetery thoughts

A wall separates Père Lachaise cemetery from the city. Unless you are a bird there are not many ways in…

The roads through are cobbled. Gentler on the feet are dirt paths beneath rows of chestnut trees, dirt paths between layers, aisles, zigzags of tombs. (As if the feet know what the mind does not yet want to admit about the self…)

The place is a puzzle, an abstract multi-dimensional quilt that at once covers the land & enters my interior space in bulky shades of gray, brown, white, black, in moss-cloaked figures–angels, women with bemused, faraway expressions, hooded guardians—or are they guides?

On these final days of my long sojourn, my thoughts are cemetery thoughts: Maybe its time to let another layer go, the way wrought-iron does its paint, the way gravestones do their script…

Here exists the Communards’ Wall where 147 fédérés, combatants of the Paris Commune, were murdered in 1871, their bodies thrown in an unmarked trench by the French Army called in to quell the uprising.

Mostly their names are forgotten, but the communards had done a very brave, very necessary thing, attempting to enact rights that had been denied workers & other so-called average people, & the State unleashed its violence towards them, as the State is wont to do.

Tombe sans croix et sans chapelle, sans lys d’or, sans vitraux d’azur, quand le peuple en parle, il l’appelle le Mur.


Here exists memorial after memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, to the breathing, feeling children & adults rounded up & sent away on trains…

Memorials to victims of genocide elsewhere & to those who’ve died in too-many wars.


Here memory exists, or at least has a fighting-chance. The eye, the mind & the heart are not permitted to turn away. What’s paramount here is remembering not only the terrible & awesome expanse of the past, but also the people who gave it life—people long forgotten, people still treasured, & in some instances those whose music or words or paintings continue to give us pleasure, solace, thoughts to consider, to build on, to launch ourselves from…

One day I bring tulips. I bring slips of paper on which I’ve written lines or quotes I love. I leave these little remembrances on certain graves: Apollinaire, Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde.

On Paul Éluard’s grave I leave an orange as well: La terre est bleue comme une orange/Jamais une erreur les mots ne mentent pas…             If only…

It is the fabled Parisian spring & I am spending nearly every of my last days here in a cemetery. Monuments & blackbirds singing, tombs & flowering cherry trees, life keeps insisting….







spaces both incomprehensible & there, just there

At 228 kmh the TGV speeds through the scrubby, rocky provençal countryside. The clouds are great dirigibles similarly moving. They are chariots, horses, crumbling walls like those beside the sea in Cassis. They are time, my sense of time, minutes gathering together, hours coming apart.

“Scarves, echoes, pavilions…” is how the poet Laura Jensen saw some clouds, then wrote it down & made a poem about imagination. If one radically commits to a life-of-the-imagination, one agrees, I think, to let things disintegrate, to burn down to ash, up to smoke…

That a remaking may occur.

Off to the east some snowy peaks slide into view. A temple rises over them. A minaret. Was it just two weeks ago I was still marking my days by the five calls to prayer?

Last night I received a lovely message from Redouane, the waiter/barista from Villa Verte in Benguerir. He wanted to know how I am & when I might be back. He will invite me to meet his family, his new wife–even serve me white wine, which is not easy to obtain in Morocco.


But I am racing, racing northward—now at 300 kmh, the land opening out, softening into fields & windbreaks, vineyards & dense woods where half the trees are busy being green—that sweet early green which claims allegiance with yellow and maybe a little purple too.

Look, a village on a hill, some red roofs clustered around a steeple!

Look, wind turbines, at once prehistoric & futuristic…

Look two nuclear power plant cooling towers!

Look! Look! A chalky river… A stone farmhouse… The geometry of the Alps, planes & angles emerging beneath a cloudscape, rough seas to the east…

Just yesterday the barista at Bar La Fontaine was asking if we wanted our usual deux allongés.

Just yesterday was wind up on an actual sea, a dark monolith shooting up out of the white-capped disquietude, a signal, a mystery I didn’t want to solve…

The diver herself solved it, appearing later with her long flippers, a darker body upon the dark body of the sea under storm clouds, the rain that never did fall.

At Le Four Banal, a small museum built around the ancient communal oven in Cassis—where bread was certainly baked but also herbs were dried for medicine during & beyond the plague years—the docent spoke gravely of the Order of Malta, the Knights Templar, freemasonry—those mysterious brotherhoods whose members helped the poor, cured the sick & also endeavored to secure land, & thus power, for themselves by “fighting terrorism” at home & abroad.

She seemed to suggest they are still behind-the-scenes, influencing life in dear “very Christian, very Catholic” Cassis.

I’m tempted to make a sweeping statement about the traveler’s great project necessarily being to learn how little she knows.

But really, I am not a “traveler.” I am just me, leaving yet another place my understanding glanced the tip of.

Or did I merely butt up against the air padding the tip, the deep exhalations, the clouds surrounding the place.

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein & his best friend Henry Clerval travel together through the British Isles, Victor fleeing his responsibility to the being he created & Clerval, ignorant of Victor’s situation, merely wanting to see & be enchanted by the world. Of his friend, Victor poignantly & astutely observes:

But he [Clerval] found that a traveler’s life is one that includes much pain amidst its enjoyments. His feelings are forever on the stretch; and when he begins to sink into repose, he finds himself obliged to quit that on which he rests in pleasure for something new, which again engages his attention, and which also he forsakes for other novelties.

I fall in love with morning on someone else’s terrace, clacking palm leaves, the calling of doves. I fall in love with frothy café allongé served in bright green cups. I fall in love with a barista’s attentiveness, a little harbor, a particular red mailbox, wrought-iron grating over windows….

But what are they really, these little affairs of the heart, when one is in a train racing through spaces both incomprehensible & there, just there…

some views

Across Rue Abbaye Paul Mouton, in the garden of Clos Ste. Devote, laundry is pinned to a line: lime-green towel, lavender towel, yellow napkin, aquamarine washcloth. Beyond that, bamboo. Beyond some bamboo two candelabra’d plane trees–or are they sycamores? Red tile roofs make a crazy geometry up to a line of pine trees beyond which rise terraced vineyards. Beyond which lie more pines & limestone cliffs, the pattern of which, in the complex play of shadow & light, resembles cuneiform.


If places are always communicating with us, maybe the ways we inhabit them indicate the quality of our listening…

The bell of the church with three names strikes four times. 16:00. Four pm. The first quarter moon has made its journey half-way across the sky, east to west, white shadow in a blue desert.

There are so many doves, & they have so many things to do–or maybe just one thing they do over & over.  It is dizzying to listen to them, three notes coming from every direction at once or in succession. Then to have one, two, three of them burst across my field of vision or its periphery. The whistle-hush of wingbeats, that close.

Here the way of living seems gentle–an impression which may have to do with the fact that I have little to do but sit & watch the birds, the sea, or to walk to places with spectacular views.

Yesterday we traipsed up to Cap Canaille, a limestone cliff which is the highest point along the Mediterranean coast. You simply walk up from the town of Cassis. Up & up alongside vineyards & villas with tennis courts & swimming pools. About the time you think you can’t go up anymore, you come to the road that says you are almost there, at the foot of the real trail. Which winds among rosemary, feathery broom, & other shrubs I sadly can’t name…

At the top, or one of the tops–there seem to be at least three–I lay eye-level with the gray & golden lichen, wanting to be as flat, as old, as they, just long enough to peer over the edge…


Feeling instead a sudden rush up, a dizzy dimensionality, a forgetfulness–or was it a remembering?–that made me back away.

Headiness I feel even here, on the terrace of the place I will call home just another week, birds winging by.



here i am…

The wind is up in Benguerir, blowing out of the west I think, though here I am rarely sure of anything. It often seems plausible that the sky isn’t actually blue…


Last night a woman came into a room in which I was waiting, a room both boundless & confined. I did not know her, but she seemed to know me & gave me a large plant in a yellow pot which I did not believe I could carry. Take this, she said, & bring it to Algadira.

But I don’t know where that is.

It’s not far. You’ll find the way. Take this & bring it to Algadira.

 I woke feeling less scrambled, less disoriented, less encumbered than I have felt for several days. Because these explorations, these two months spent largely alone with my notebooks & camera, with my limitations, which are considerable, have been sometimes very difficult—though of course they have been the opposite of that too, bringing delights & surprises, happiness & satisfaction which I have tried to convey in these posts…

I mean, here I am, drinking my second perfect cup of coffee at La Villa Verte, a café I have come to think of as mine, where the waiter, Redouan, knows I always drink two cups of coffee, the second one about an hour after the first. A large window looks upon gesturing orange & palm & olive trees, two huge billowing Moroccan flags at the sports complex across the boulevard. The Friday midday call to prayer has just issued in succession from each mosque in town while Moroccan-techno-fusion sets my feet to tap & two adorable young women sample pastries, drink Coke, & chat softly, conspiratorially across the room.

But for three days I could hardly get myself out the door. I sat on the couch staring. I lay on the floor. I cried often. & at risk of sounding maudlin I’ll admit I put “sad piano music” on an endless loop. Or Chopin’s Nocturnes. Or Enya.

I felt at once stuck-in-place & placeless::

As if in an endless room, surrounded by voices, none of which you understand, turning in circles, trying to get a bead on your whereabouts, knowing there is no way to do this, no way forward, no way out, except the way you make up, the way that gets you through.

I should be acquainted with this sudden shift to the floor. This hard emptiness that only sad piano music can begin to soften. It happened in Paris. It happened in Chefchaouen. It happens, frankly, at home…

It is, for me, the other side of travel/the other side of life, the part that takes you & shakes you like a frustrated mother, leaving you limp & uncertain about everything—your place in the world, your purpose, asking yourself whether there’s meaning beyond what you make up to get yourself through the days, months, years.

Now the wind is up in Benguerir. I have the promise of two more days with Mary, of meeting my dear friend Ross in the south of France, of talking to my sons again soon. I will walk downtown to buy vegetables at the butcher shop—yes, really—where two sheep heads will be propped on a carton. I, a vegetarian, will marvel at their marble eyes.

I will carry my yellow pot, my plant to Algadira…



en route…


Emotionally I am more suited to being somewhere over being en route to somewhere. Which is why I’ve made a journey mostly of being in place.

But, it turns out, even en route you are somewhere—


On a street outside the medina walking with your suddenly heavy luggage, having gone from light & nimble to burdensome & clunky because you could not resist the rugs, the caps, the hangings made of cactus silk. The bon prix you got for buying two. The très bon prix for three.

On this street, a young man offers to help you around the corner, down the cumbersome stairs & into the grand taxi that will take you part of the way there.

& it seems quite a kindness, burdened as you are, anxious as you are, even though you know he, the young man with the winsome if brown-toothed smile, the curiosity about where you’re going & where you’re from, will put out his hand once he’s handed you & your luggage into the taxi. & why not? you are on his street, are you not? & your heaviness in going, in leaving the blue staircases & walls, has been lifted a little by his willingness, his strong arms & back.

In much the same way, later, not yet there but outside the Gare Routière in Tangier, you know you are paying too much for a taxi ride to a waiting place more suitable than the spartan station, the resident young cats notwithstanding. But the driver is really, really nice. You feel this, though he will not budge on his price.

He ends up taking you to a semi-somewhere you would not, could not have known about on your own, a restaurant along the beach where you can have a decent vegetarian meal & sit for hours, watching passersby, some of whom catch your eye through the glass, motioning hand-to-mouth, meaning Woman-with-two-heavy-bags & more than you can possibly eat spread before you like treasure, can you spare a few dirhams for food?  The owner chases them away…

Crossing to the beach-side of the street, you can’t walk far with your load & so sit & sitting you’re almost somewhere because here are people out in the evening, men with games of precision other men play, kicking balls to knock down bottles, but never, no never, them all.

A man shows you his geodes, pink & green & violet crystalline structures hidden inside plain-as-plain-can-be rocks. He’s willing to sell them…One, Madame, just one…

The sea, the Mediterranean Sea, is as blue as any water you’ve seen—it’s very own blue in fact, a blue you cannot conjure a word for.

A woman sits next to you. She looks to be older, by maybe five years, maybe eight. Her djellaba is a rich shade of brown, her headscarf green, orange, beige. You notice she is carrying two cellophane-wrapped roses.

C’est calme, she remarks, meaning the weather—not you, who are anything but calm while en route, in transition.

Oui, you respond, très calme.

Pretty soon she’s offering you one of her roses—pour la fête des femmes. A gift you accept with, no doubt, some puzzlement on your face because she goes on to explain in French you have trouble parsing in your flusterment.

Vous connaissez? Le huit marz. Le huit marz.

Oh yes, yes of course. March 8! In the U.S we march to “take back the night.” Here in Morocco they give flowers…

The two of you go on to have an all-too-brief conversation. She & her husband are retired & live in Fes but own a small house here in Tangier where they come to be near the sea. They adore the sea. Her English is very bad, she tells you, but her sister is a university English professor.

When her husband arrives, the three of you talk some more. Surprised you’re traveling alone, he cautions you not to remain on the boardwalk much past dark.

If you were not leaving on the night train, his wife would, he says, invite you to stay with her.

After they leave, you make your way slowly back to the train station, getting confused in a maze of construction. How to find your way through? You ask a security guard, who asks a construction worker, who speaks neither English nor French, so they find an employee at the posh hotel who directs you.

You try to follow his instructions, but in the dark you can’t see a way through the rubble.

The construction worker is still there, eating his dinner. You sign to him that you are still lost. He invites you to sit down, insisting you share some of his meal, making a sandwich of grilled vegetables, pouring a generous amount of olive oil, showing you how to dip the sandwich in it. Piling up some olives, too. Eat, he motions, eat…

Meanwhile he goes to find his boss. It seems he has decided not only to feed you but to walk you to the station, this man with thick curly hair & chestnut skin who’s about the age of your sons. The boss gives him leave, & taking both your bags, the one very heavy, the other a little less so, he guides you around the potholes & construction debris, through an alley & into the station.

You are about to dig into your purse for some money, repeating merci, merci beaucoup, when he disappears into the warm night—back to his meal, his work, his life in this place that’s no longer for you merely on the way to somewhere else…




savoring, savoring chefchaouen

I have procured a hard-to-get bottle of wine & am sitting on the rooftop terrace watching another storm approach from over the Rif Mountains, the sky in a charcoal mood. This morning I sat here with my coffee, rain blowing in billows & me wrapped in a shawl & blanket, thankful for the partial overhang that keeps one slim end of the terrace dry.

Savoring, savoring Chefchaouen. Roosters crowing from the four-corners & everywhere in-between, the Ras-El-Ma waterfalls four degrees past swollen & talking, talking about it…


Evening means children playing in the streets, women talking, men talking, everybody out-of-doors, because, I suppose, why be shut in when you can be outside among your neighbors & friends?

Wine & beer are not much drunk here unless you are somewhat furtive about your whereabouts or a tourist/Westerner. There is, as far as I can tell, only one place near the medina to buy them, a restaurant/bar where you can order-in or take-out. When Mary & Dustin were here we bought a bottle to share, finding the place after some searching & once inside, being led through what seemed like a maze of passageways & doors to the bar where we had to wait for the exact right man with whom to transact the deal.

The place has, well, a speak-easy-ish feel. I wished we needed a password or secret handshake to enter…


The bar, it goes without saying, is frequented solely by men. Who fairly looked Mary & me up & down probably with more curiosity than anything while we waited for “the man.”

It is not a non-smoking establishment.  I, at least, felt very bold.

Yesterday, deciding to buy a bottle of wine to celebrate my time here & console my recurring if not persistent lonesomeness, I walked by the place to see if they were open. (It’s a hit-or-miss kind of place.) This time, a young man outside made it very easy, recognizing what I was there for, & guiding me to the proper door. This time “the man” was already behind the bar & took care of me, easy-peasy.

But I did feel bolder still.

From where I sit I can see, even with the light going gray & grayer, a little stone hut. I wonder about that structure across the waterfall & up a steep pitch. I wonder about a lot of things here in Chefchaouen.

I see women in the hills with large bundles of green-leafed branches strapped to their backs. I wonder if the green leaves are used to mix with green tea, the way absinthe & thyme & other herbs are. I wonder if the wood is then burned in the public ovens or baths–hammams.


I wonder why a little girl threw stones at me, yelling what were obviously deprecations. The stones hit my legs, stinging. When I pretended to cry, her words took on a greater force & intensity. I quickened my steps, away…

The fourth call to prayer is taking place as I write this, a harmonics of belief—or at least of the forms of belief. I myself do not know what it means to believe. But I do feel satisfied, maybe even uplifted, when someone here says to me “In shā a llāh”—God willing.

I do not know what God is either. But I do know–or feel–that energies are moving among us over which we mere humans have no control. Like the wind that knocked the power out earlier this week. Like the storms that have made of trash-strewn, lackadaisical Ras-El-Ma an immensity—at least for now. And yet not like these at all…











untitled view

I have not counted the number of stairs from the bottom of the medina to the top. My phone says it’s something like 53 floors.

Outside the medina, a walkway follows the north end of the wall built to protect the town from centuries of invasion. Today the wall protects me from the wind rushing sidewise, down—or is it up?—from the south.


A young man looks for the exact right rock to hold a sheep’s tether in place. I wonder why he is tethering just the one ewe, while several others are free to wander the hillside where the grass is sprinkled with calendula & miniature arum-like plants.

Happy, I think. The grass is happy with recent rain. The flowers are happy with their own & the sun’s sunniness. & I am happy with the views. Morning has proven fair, before the next storm—already wind-announced!—begins to pummel Chefchaouen.

I pass some rather large hotels, wondering if anyone stays in them. I pass Moroccan men in twos & threes, in black jeans & jackets, or woven earth-toned djellabas. Some of the men greet me: Salaam, Bonjour, Hello. Vous êtes française? Anglaise? Allemande?  Others look the other way, or right through me, which is fine—I like feeling for an instant I’m made of glass, transparent.

I pass a field where two days ago I sat watching & listening to some birds, trying to memorize the particular way they landed, how they slow way down, hovering almost, before touching ground & closing their wings. Trying to memorize their wing stripes, the vaguely yellow tint of their breasts.

I walk & walk until I find some trees, tall thin pines, & walk beneath them until they stop & the hillside opens, suddenly shrubby, rocky, uneven. Here on a rock is where I’ll perch, until thickening clouds drive me home.

The wind is a fine accompaniment to thoughts that skitter around. When Mary & Dustin were still here we went looking for the local version of corncakes, a dense bread made in part with corn. We’d found a woman who makes them, but her stall is open infrequently. So, we proceeded out of the medina to a street lined with carts & vendors selling bread, the round loaves typical here, some quite hearty. But no corncakes.

Vous avez le pain du maïz? We were directed this way & that, coming to the end of the row of bread-sellers. There, the very last seller took it upon himself to bring us to a nearby shop, a sort of hardware store, where a young bright-faced man spoke English & told us, “you find cornbread only in the medina.” We thanked them both profusely, in four languages. This would never happen in Paris.

But today’s thoughts are a bit like that search… Will I stay in Chefchaouen despite the coming rains? If I leave, where will I go? Isn’t there a better word than race for how the clouds are moving today? What is the thing I am searching for?

A herd of goats is crossing the road below. They move much like the shadows of clouds. They are going to investigate a trash heap. Pretty soon some crows show up, crows who everywhere love windy days best.  They, too, investigate the trash. Then come some white birds—maybe doves—


Suddenly the wind is picking up trash, plastic sacks, scraps of paper. Suddenly the waste is inspirited, somersaulting, fluttering, coasting, as much alive as I or you. Some live very briefly, others are taken quite a distance from the heap, disappearing over the red clay roofs.

For a reason I can’t explain, I decide to take niether photos nor a video of this…

On the way home, I will do some marketing, stocking up for the rainy days ahead. A man will charge two & a half times what I paid for the same lettuce, at the same stand, yesterday. Another will put an extra handful of peanuts in the rolled-paper cone.



arriving again & again & again…


Marrakech, Friday night, Saturday afternoon, the square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. Musicians, playing darbukas, ouds, & clacking bell-like qraqebs. Clapping, swaying listeners.

Storytellers gathering yet other listeners around them, spinning tales whose fine filaments hold the people in thrall. Snake charmers mesmerizing cobras & tourists alike. Monkeys on leashes & birds of prey, hawks with tiny leather loops around their legs, tied to perches. For a price you could listen. For a price have your picture taken with a python draped around your neck, a monkey in your lap.

Yes, mesmerize & enthrall are words that come to mind for Marrakech, at least for the medina & the great lively square with its greater abundance: roasting meats, pressed oranges & grapefruits, horses’ hooves on the cobbles, donkey carts, the instruments, the singing & clapping, the shuffling dances, the hawking, the hustle, & the colors, orange, red, blue, the rose-colored walls…

Mesmerize & enthrall–verbs of course but also nouns, states of being…


In Ben Guerir we bring Mary’s friend some shoes from the U.S. & are treated to a lavish tea: Moroccan mint tea, pastries, almonds, two kinds of bread with olive oil pressed from the olives in the family’s orchard, almond butter, honey, more Moroccan tea, this one with thyme.

Mary’s friend Abdulladeem speaks & writes five languages…

& he & his family practice a sixth—hospitality—a language consisting of food & drink, an atmosphere of welcome, a warm color like orange.

While we ate & talked with Abdulladeem, his mother joined us, sitting beside me, urging me with hand signals to eat more, eat more. Then she turned to me, holding her own breast in a gesture that felt somehow familiar & pointing to mine.

Turns out she wanted to know if I was breastfeeding, or was going to be breastfeeding. If so, she thought I should be eating more. I said, laughing, that I was too old, but that, yes, I had breastfed my sons, a long time ago. Her son translated this–& she was satisfied, nodding, a smile flitting about her more serious lips.

Mary, who has been in Morocco since late August, speaks a mixture of English, French, hand signals & a smattering of Arabic to facilitate our movements, our purchases, our encounters. She dives right in with the cab drivers, merchants, servers, and also with her neighbors in Ben Guerir who do the same.

Now, the relative calm of Essaouira, the “windy city” where all day gulls circle over the fishing docks & at night fly in & out of lamp-light, their high-pitched queries & calls. Outside my blue-shuttered window this morning men talk & I experience the language—Darija—as being written on the air in wavy lines, in scrolls & dots, yet somehow three-dimensional, breathing.

Very near, when it is still dark, but perceptibly lighter in the east than in the west, comes the day’s first call to prayer, which my dreamscapes seem to have embraced, an accompaniment. I wake, but just perceptibly, like the light, & feel curiously carried back into sleep on the boat made of words I don’t understand in the least, except that they are earnest & reverent & colored, for me, the blue of curtains, wind-spun.


There is something loose here, light, fresh & open, despite or because of the crumbling walls, the patterned tiles & maze-like streets. It has to do with oranges in the marketplace, blue shutters thrown open to morning, the call to prayer whose timbres disintegrate in the air, the narrow ways spilling into the bright squares & wider avenues…








au revoir paris, à bientôt

10 am, my last full day in Paris. I know without looking the sky is gray. I know without living it yet the day will be full of echoes

The phone keeps ringing, but I can’t figure out how to answer it, much less to place a call. I fumble around with the carriage, the buttons. The ringing stops. I think Alexandra or her mother is trying to get ahold of me to arrange the exchange of keys.

The key which will no longer be my key.

The red-topped table where I have written nearly two notebooks full of poems, where I’ve sat in full concentration & contentment, where I’ve sat in loneliness & frustration, where I’ve read Mandelstam & Apollinaire, where I’ve drunk my cups of coffee & tea, & eaten my simple meals, my salads & omelettes & bowls of white beans, where I’ve kept the faith, in other words, where I’ve held my vigils of light & dark…the red-topped table will go on gleaming its plexiglass gleam, site of someone else’s labors.

The wooden figure on the shelf, whom I call Fanny, will hold whatever gesture I give her, until someone else takes her down, re-positions her arms or feet, re-christens her Matilda or LaKeisha, Oscar or Mei-Mei.

What do we leave behind us when we move on? Some echo of our having been happy, having been sad, having made something large or small of the moments presented to us…

Yet even this happy, necessary going–I’m bound for Morocco to see my dear friend Mary & her son–is a little death…

If it is that, it is also a gathering. As I pack my suitcase later today, I will also be packing the street with its shop windows & damp, diesel smells, its footsteps, a man singing in a language other than French as he washes shop windows, another man proclaiming loudly, insistently to no one in particular in the post office, the view from my window, the wrought-iron scrolls through which I see a small leafless tree, some potted palms & camellias. I will be packing my blue door, and the common blackbird’s uncommon song.

In his Preface to the revised edition of Portrait of a Lady, Henry James writes that his interest lay in describing, evoking, the excitement of an inward life, the drama of interior experience. Such has been my five-week sojourn in Paris, a largely interior journey, one whose “map” would be difficult if not impossible to trace accurately. Perhaps, like Isabel Archer—though much older!—I have learned to see a few things, a very few, with some clarity.

The Seine is still running high & fast, though receding from the quays. People are lined up outside the Louvre, the Pompidou, the Musée d’Orsay. I have succeeded in identifying the long-necked bird: Phalacrocorax carbo, the Great Cormorant. I came close once to capturing with my camera the rose-gold light of a winter’s dusk on the face of the Tour St. Jacques, light such as Monet saw on the face of the Cathedral at Rouen. The hours of light per day have increased nearly two hours since I arrived.

In my dream, I forget to return the key, or don’t know how to return it, & so must take it with me to figure out on the way.