The Fall of Paris
by Andrew Parkin
Wanda Landowska (1879-1959) recorded Scarlatti's sonatas in Paris,
1939-March, 1940. On the recording the sounds of heavy guns can
be heard at times in the background.
Landowska plays while Paris falls;
Scarlatti's energy relives its runs
though sullen drums, beleaguered guns,
affright the ancient air.
With subtle Janus for her god
the unreal city prays and flirting smiles.
St. Louis sleeps, and troops for miles
around blaspheme, despair.
The shadow of triumphal arch
again entices Prussian youths and men,
spreads wide for strutting pride and then
engulfs all marching there.
L'Etoile becomes a blackened web.
As Hitler jigs we drink down shame.
The Opera's hyperboles resound,
its lamps still glow, but underground
a fire begins to flare.
Beyond the barracks, yards, and cells
where victims face the brute who maims and kills
the Seine between the city's hills
spills like a woman's hair.
The rape is quick and sure; the troops
are satisfied, and Speer lets Paris live.
Can she survive this war?
She gives herself till forty-four
the spleen of Baudelaire,
the rictus of Voltaire.
This poem originally appeared in Canadian Literature #111 (Winter 1986), Nature, Natural, Naturalists. (pg. 67)