Today’s challenge is to be a Flâneur! As Bijan Stephen writes on the Paris Review blog:
“The figure of the flâneur—the stroller, the passionate wanderer emblematic of nineteenth-century French literary culture—has always been essentially timeless; he removes himself from the world while he stands astride its heart…the flâneur heralded an incisive analysis of modernity, perhaps because of his connotations: “[the flâneur] was a figure of the modern artist-poet, a figure keenly aware of the bustle of modern life, an amateur detective and investigator of the city, but also a sign of the alienation of the city and of capitalism,” as a2004 article in the American Historical Review put it.
What is this despairing, despondence choking my heart?
Turning it into a block of stone, a magnetic force-field
that draws me through narrow, forlorn streets of Paris,
a place I call home, but increasingly feel I don’t belong.
Like a tourist, I wander through the streets at night
sometimes, at anytime of the day – when I feel restless,
Longing for the wonder I see in their eyes, now lost to me!
A city of my birth in which I no longer feel wild and free.
Standing beneath an arcane lamp post across the street,
I light up another cigarette and watch the snaked queue
outside the Moulin Rouge. It’s eleven o’clock, a bustling night.
The snake slithers and curves around shops, decrepit and sleazy.
There is an air of marvel, mixed with impatience as foreigners meet.
I hear the American voices above the din, bold bitching, words
about poor service followed by explosive laughter, contrary to
the lilting pitch of locals’ exchanged greetings, Bonjour, ça va?
I take my place in the queue, snaking my way to the entrance,
In tow,up the stairs of red carpet opulence, duping these visitors!
The casino-style ambience, black-clothed tables, champagne on ice,
a splendid show, well worth the price for the captivated audience.
After the show, resuming my place, beneath a shadowed lamplight,
watching the dispersing champagne crowd, voices ever so loud,
delaying returning to my narrow abode in its narrow cobbled street,
watching the city’s light and its shadow, a return of lonely discontent!
Stubbing my cigarette, I sigh: the mirror has two faces, c’est la vie!