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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

a song for the south

The weight in me lifted as the train made its way out of the city and into the vastness of the country. I brought no books, no music; no distractions for my five-hour train ride. I sat still most of the way, and let myself be soothed by the passing fields.

The lightness stayed with me all weekend. Back in the small town of Castelnau de Montmiral, surrounded by a soft landscape of fields and vineyards, I found the calm I was looking for. I found the calm in myself I was starting to lose a hold of.

afternoon table

Not only this, but I came back to somewhere that felt like home. Where the young girl down the street thanked me profusely when I gave her the small metal Eiffel tower I’d promised her, where my neighbor gave me two huge jars of homemade fig jam, where I sat with the restaurant staff late after work, sipping on whiskey and talking about music.

my street

I spent my few days there on my own, walking, resting, reading, and eating meals of bread smothered in country honey, and whatever I could find in the pantry. In the evenings I walked down the street to the restaurant, where I knew that anything I ordered would be gastronomical, and that the waiter would be a familiar face.


My first night I went to the restaurant asking for a table for one, and ended up sitting with 11 men who rode motorbikes behind the cyclists for the Tour de France. They insisted, so I took a heavy dose of testosterone with my memorable meal of duck, raspberry sauce and crispy pastry. At the end of the night I had a few new friends and a free meal.

Afterwards, as I blasted music through the house, one of the young men knocked on my door. I invited him in for a drink, had a long honest conversation, then took him to the bar to meet up with my friends. My friends eventually replaced the young man, and made their way back to my place for more drinking and more music.

reflecting the sky

I got everything out of my stay that I was looking for. The late night conversations. The long walks. The calm. The stars at night. The heavy rain that pours down for an hour and then stops completely. A familiar setting.

through the leaves

Nevertheless, I’m glad to be back in my city. When two young men came on the metro with a portable stereo, and played their flutes to snake charming music, I was excited to be back in the life of it all. It was nice to see the glow of the Eiffel tower again, to see so many cafes open at night, and to see the influence of fashion on so many of the metro passengers.

And when I picked up the kids at school the next day, they seemed genuinely happy to see me. Vive Paris, the adventure continues!


I sat wearing all black, drinking a black coffee, and wrote this poem, just because:

One day you step out the door
And all you see are unfamiliar faces.
You are nameless,
Another body, in the body of it all.
You only want to go out at night,
When the shadows hide your face.
The light is too revealing,
And you feel on display,
Like a mannequin in a window,
What garments will you wear today?
So now you wear only black,
Thinking you might blend in,
And you sneer at all the strangers,
Who tell you to smile more.
If only they knew how wrong it felt,
To mold your lips
So unwillingly,
Into an image of happiness,
You barely remember.
All you remember,
Is one day it faded to black.
One day you closed the curtains,
And they didn’t seem to open
After that.
It started with your morning coffee,
Black and empty,
And crawled back into bed with you at night.


I sat around a table of males,
And felt the ability to love any of them.
The whiskey had warmed my heart,
Reminded my body of making love,
And the candles I had lit,
Made their faces glow like romance.
They talked about girls,
As a joint was passed around the table,
Saying “She’s a one night kind of girl,”
Or “That one talked too much.”
And I wonder what they say about me,
Hoping I’m at least worth two nights.
They talk about literature, music,
The way they feel about their looks.
I can’t help but be impressed
By their honesty,
After all the conversations
I’ve heard between young men,
Who always had something to prove.
They left early in the morning
After polishing off the bottle of whiskey.
Part of me wanted to hold one back,
To warm my bed,
But I watched them leave,
And took a bath instead.
I held myself,
As I fell asleep,
My arms as strong
As any man.


I take the train back to Paris,
And it’s cold.
Outside the sky is a deep dreamy grey,
And somehow the darkness comforts me.
The cold air of fall has taken over;
Wraps itself around me.
I’m reminded of all the times it’s done
This before,
Of the times I’d walk home from school
Crunching leaves under my feet,
Trying not to let the weight of my knapsack
Break my back,
As I headed hungrily towards the house
For an after school snack.
Even the thought of these days warms me;
The image of the orange tiles
Of my kitchen floor,
Of the cupboards in yellow wood,
And the Mexican masks,
Pinned on the wall by the oven.
The grey sky outside the train gets heavier,
But all of our bodies are tucked in here,
Glowing under the yellow lights that lace the ceiling.
We’re tucked into our seats with distractions:
Books, music, journals and food,
All headed back to Paris,
Where we’ll climb out,
Lugging bags too big for us,
The grey sky
Having turned to black.


Blogger Mark said...

gill, you're missing a rippin good time in j-skool. you may be living in a cultural and geographical paradise, but you aren't surrounded by j-skoolers......
unblock me sometime and let me holla at ya.

6:27 PM  

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