No, not “Juliet”, juillet. French for “July”.

Donna Vorreyer asked us (well, there were two prompts this week, but I’m going with #47, not #48) to pick a number that was significant in our lives, Wiki it, and work some of the newly discovered information into a poem. I picked “19”, as it was (one of) the most formative year(s) of my life. I lived in France the summer I was 19, in the 19th arrondissement of Paris; if I had to point to one experience where I really feel like I grew into myself and my life as a result, it would be that summer. 19 is the minimum number of hexagons in a “magic hexagon”; a prime number; the size of the grid for a go board; minimum smoking age in many parts of the US (and drinking age in parts of Canada); the department of Corrèze’s code in France; disputably the average age of soldiers killed in Vietnam; the number of angels guarding hell in Islam; and of course, the last year you can call yourself a teenager.

I think that’s everything I worked in. Anyway, it is a time full of memory.


There is nothing quite like being nineteen
having your own apartment in Paris
playing zouk and static on the radio by the window
watching the grandmothers hang laundry out to dry
and the evening dripping stains down the stucco walls

there is nothing quite like
eating tartines on the terraces of La Villette or
crossing the spider bridge to sibylline temples in the park
scrabbling down the steep sides of the Canals to
throw stones and smoke cloves
coming home at ungodly hours in the last summer of
this one definable youth

there is nothing quite like
lying entwined while a troop of wary angels gaze down
on sinful affairs with boys who kiss their consonants
who run indivisible hands along your back while
offering to drive to Corrèze for the weekend
to the heart of this magic hexagonal country that is
beating slowly and filling you with the end of blood

there is nothing quite like
thinking about how this all came about with
the careful placing of opportunities one at a time
in a slow outward spiral and thinking about how
another time another place maybe
you could be dead or wounded or full of misfortune
and at least unaware of this beauty that is
asymmetrical from beginning to end

there is nothing quite like it at all.

13 thoughts on “Juillet

  1. msearthsnake says:

    pretty cool

  2. vivinfrance says:

    I enjoyed the prose almost as much as the poem, and echoes of Paris most of all.

  3. Carol Steel says:

    Lovely, full of gorgeous images.

  4. For some reason, this calls to mind the film Exils for me. Absolutely lovely!

  5. brian says:

    nineteen in paris wow that is an adventure itself…i dream of paris…your imagery and weaving of story is nice but your last stanza…the circumstances coming together…that is reality for me…because it happens and often we dont notice…i am glad you do

  6. Victoria says:

    This is crazy…I lived in the 19eme arrondissement for a summer in 1971 or was it 72 before spending a year in Brittany. On Rue Phillipe de Girard…in a convent. Ha! Bet my experience was a bit different from yours. Took the Metro in to Alliance Francais.

  7. Pat Hatt says:

    Last year you can call yourself a teenager, haha sure in most cases that might be a good thing. Truly wonderful verse, you convey Paris throughout so well.

  8. Mohana says:

    Wow! This is so excellently beautiful…makes me wish to go to Paris…*sigh*

  9. rallentanda says:

    No… there is nothing like being young in Paris except being any age in a tropical paradise:)

  10. Sheila Moore says:

    wonderful memories – thanks for sharing them with us :)

  11. siubhan says:

    aiii, this gives me a hard dose of wanderlust. you paint the paris instants so beautifully….

  12. Mark: thanks, glad you liked it!
    mse: it was, living it. :)
    viv: I can’t even express how much I miss Paris. It’s been almost five years since the last time I was there, and I’m seriously thinking that this coming year, I need to make a voyage happen. (In the intervening years, I’ve been settling for Diet Paris, which is, Montreal.)
    Carol: thank you!
    Rachel: I don’t think I’m familiar with that one, will have to check it out…
    Brian: looking back on it now, I almost feel like I should have made it more of an adventure than it was. I’m still not sure, in the bones of my bones, why I came back at all.
    Victoria: no way! I was living on the La Villette side, on Blvd. Jean Jaurès, near Laumière. And then a little while later I went to Brittany for a week to do thesis research. Parallel lives, eh? Though yes, I didn’t have the convent part.
    Pat: it sounds better to say “I lived in Paris when I was a teenager” than “I lived in Paris when I was 20”, I think. ;)
    Mohana: it’s never too late to live the dream…
    Rall: well, now that I’ve gotten a taste of Rio and Buenos Aires, that’s the next step. Woo!
    Sheila: thank you for reading them. ^_^
    Siubhan: it did that for me too. Now that it’s colder and darker round these parts, I desperately want to travel again, even though I just came back from a journey.

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