Homepage photograph via Flickr by Lens Adventurer

All of Paris is quiet, while the oxygen machine
struggles to fill your lungs.

The gargoyles’ cheeks flush
from the strain of breathing for you.

The clouds are still—they won’t
steal one minute from this morning.

Around the Périphérique, cars
switch off their engines. Plumes of vapour

rise from the streets where you lived—
Rue de la Huchette, Quai Saint Michel.

Sparrows have nested in your doorframe,
it’s so long since it was opened

and I have come to give you a bed-bath,
to shut the flowers in your skin.

The Jardin des Plantes locks its enclosures
as I dry the garden of your chest.

The winged ghouls of Notre Dame crouch
on your shoulders as you sleep;

they have guarded the scar between your ribs
the last years of your confinement.

Their stone eyes stare at me
as I shake your arm. And when

car horns and sirens fail to wake you
and the doctor comes to switch off your oxygen,

I see you stretched on your narrow bed
like an etiolated city, O my father, all your gates closed.


Pascale Petit

Pascale Petit lives in Cornwall, UK. Her seventh collection, Mama Amazonica, will be published by Bloodaxe in September 2017. Her sixth, Fauverie, was her fourth to be shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and five poems from the book won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize. Petit has had three collections chosen as Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement, Independent, and Observer. Her books have been translated into Spanish (in Mexico), Chinese, French, and Serbian and she is widely traveled, including in the Peruvian and Venezuelan Amazon. In 2015 she received a Cholmondeley Award.