Best of the Net 2011  

Maybe This Happens to Everyone

When I woke, Paris was in flames.
I spent the day in bed while a man I loved
kissed my ankles, the white arches
of my feet, asked what made them,
and I told him it was the Sacre CŌur--
when a city is burning like that there's no time
for lies. At night the flames were in my hair,
the flames were in his mouth and each street
unrolled like a long tongue that gave
us what we couldn't understand,
only if we'd dance on the cobbles
they'd light up like the disco floors
of les Grands Boulevards, like the smooth-trodden
gravestones of popes inside the cathedral,
the martyrs emblazoned on the Bastille.
I don't remember the Bastille.
It is impossible to remember the Bastille
when his hand is up my dress on the metro
and Paris is in flames. The trains
brought us in through a tunnel underwater:
the Chunnel was made of glass,
the train like a chain of dolphins linked end to end,
arching silver with the currents,
and we saw Humpbacks, eyes big as our train car,
slow and bovine--it took minutes to pass them.
Their whale eyes were looking at us--
everyone in Paris was looking at us.
We weren't looking at anyone, and when we did
their faces were like mirrors and I loved
his strange watery reflection but kissed only him.
The trains came. The trains moved out
of the blue-glass station while we ate crepes Nutella
and called them crapes because we were Americans. 
The trains came. The trains moved out.
Our train moved out.
We stayed. Paris lit and smoldered.
Maybe this was the beginning of the world again, maybe
it was the end—maybe this happens to everyone
in every city, even in small towns, where corn fields
catch fire at the end of summer
and teenagers tear off their clothes
and run naked through them, tempting
the flames with their flawless skin,
but it won't brand them, won't even singe,
no matter how hard they run.

- Mary Kovaleski Byrnes (from inter|rupture)