In Front of La Gare de Lyon (Paris, France, August 1974)
by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

          Sur la avenue au coucher du soleil,
          streetlamps pop on in sequence,
          while CitroŽns and Renaults
          stream into traffic circles
          barely escaping connubial conflagration
          by American inches.

          At 17, I flip through a dog-eared copy
          of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge,
          lent me by a Frenchman,
          inexplicably fluent in 50's hipcat English.

          In la Champs …lysťes,
          he presses the flesh to Daddy-Os,
          trolls for cranked dollies,
          a Lucky Strike always dangling
          from his James Dean sneer.

          I read the first page –
          “I have never begun a novel
          with more misgiving.” –
          smile then plunge into a sea of words.

          11-point Palatino Linotype, to be precise,
          filled with Gold-bug Speedsters, raccoon coats,
          shaved-head Buddhists, and flappers galore.

          I learned then in front of La Gare de Lyon:
          while streaming through our teeming time,
          all of us exist in the now,
          but also at the same time
          in one parallel universe
          after another, after another, after another.

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