A Wall Map of Paris

B. H. Fairchild

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A night of drinking, dawn is coming on,
my friend's hand falls along a darkening stain
that runs from Vaugirard to Palatine
and west to Rue Cassette. There, he says,
Rilke wrote "The Panther." And that darkness
came from James Wright's head one soggy night
when he drank too much, leaned back into the Seine
and recited verse till dawn. Ohio sunlight
stuns the windowpane, and I'm seeing Paris,
where the morning bronzes cobblestones,
the grates around the chestnut trees, and a man
with a fullback's shoulders and a dancer's tread
whistles a Schubert tune and walks toward
a river like the rivers in his head.

He looks for Villon's ghost at Notre Dame,
recalls Apollinaire, the rain-soaked heart
of sad Verlaine, Rilke at the Dome,
and later a St. Anne's watches the children
learning how to kiss like swans. But on
Pont Neuf, when he gazes deep into the Seine,
the face of a glassworker's son stares back,
and the river that runs through Paris runs
through Ohio past Jimmy Leonard's shack,
the Shreve High Football Stadium, and Kenyon,
where a boy with the memory of a god
and a gift for taking images to heart
translates from a poem about the head
of Orpheus, in a river, singing.

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