Where in this city could anything natural grow?
I was wondering, constrained in the Saturday crowd
like a cow in a feed-lot —
when I fell out of the crush and saw in the footpath
these three-clawed star-prints:
an accidentally decorative mincing trot
scarred forever into a trottoir
where millions stampede, guide books herding them
to monuments and five star meal troughs.

I had just blundered over a grille
tornadoing heat from the Metro.
My skirt had threatened to bloom like a tulip
silkily navy above my waist. And so I wondered
if this was how she had come here too,
the Marilyn Monroe of pigeons,
buffeted down rue de Rivoli in her high heels,
streetwise enough to know the uses and abuses
of underworld hot air, but still half-stunned, clipped-winged,
trapped in the storm of bodies and traffic and distracted
by fountains    apricot roses    and perfectly
symmetrically   positioned   aquamarine ice statues
parading along rooftops ornamented with chimneys’ empty nests.

Without thinking (and anyway her Pidgin French
was not up to translating the warning),
she must have waddled into wet concrete
so that even though no ant waved a wary, feelered welcome,
no feather fell from the street lamps’ branches,
even though the crowd still hid
its soft face under dark hems of hair
and the gusts of foreign voices threatened to toss her
under the traffic like just another untidy bird

still underfoot she left this fragile, stiletto skitter
this little moment of herself crying I was here, I was here

(from The Satin Bowerbird 1998)


JK Alone With Marilyn Monroe in Paris