I evade prepubescent
pickpockets who stalk naive
tourists as they emerge from
the underground Metro.
A watchful Parisian wordlessly
points from his eyes to my wallet,
warns of gypsy hands that grab,
distracting their victims.
Eight blocks later, gendarmes
apprehend the young thieves,
force them to sit in a line,
wrists bound, feet in the gutter.
Sketch artists, white-faced mimes,
solicit at Sacre-Coeur cathedral,
posture, entertain passersby,
make indecent proposals to women.
Near the Lapin Agile Cabaret,
I visit a wine shop, walls illustrated
with street boys, the French
equivalent of Salinas gang homies.
A late afternoon Crocque Monseiur,
warm beer mixed with lemonade,
kicking back at an open air bistro,
make me blend, feel like a local.
Cabaret after Sunrise
Once the Moulin Rouge closes, tourists are
sent back to five star hotels, accounts settled,
indiscretions forgiven, slumming concluded.
Seductive courtesans call it a night, wander
home to single beds, feed the cat,
set out tea and biscuits, decide to sleep in.
Daylight scrubs away most erotic adventures.
Young dancers wash their faces, cover up
flawless breasts, pull on faded levis.
Red windmill rotor blades whirl.
Montematre resurrects, a fresh shift of
pickpockets spilling out of the Metro.
200,000 workers, furious at
the government’s proposal
to raise retirement age
by two years,
take to Parisian streets.
They close down the Metro,
Chant slogans, carry
red balloons, colorful banners.
At night, they riot along
Avenue des Champs-Élysées,
light fires in trash cans,
toss rocks and bottles.
Escaping my Marais district hotel,
I drop into the local bistro,
knock back a few glasses
of lukewarm panaché,
feel my union sympathies stirring.
After three or four,
I’m out on the boulevard
waving a scarlet flag
and pumping one fist
with my new anarchist friends.
An ex-patriot American lefty,
I am inebriated and incensed,
marching in solidarityamong rowdy French strikers.