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In my twenties, long before satnavs
invaded the City of Light, I roamed 
Paris under the watchful guidance of
my bachelor-companion, Monsieur 
Pariscope. He was a compact listings 
magazine, costing a few francs at the
 newsstand, but worth his weight in gold.
He was a dapper, glossy-coated flaneur, 
who chaperoned me with Haussmann 
expertise, to the distant ends of every 
Metro line. We stepped out from my 
borrowed flat in the Marais, under 
the Renaissance arches of the Place
des Vosges and the formalities of 
the Hotel de Sully, into the squalid
modernities of far-flung banlieu
where a cathedral lurks amongst 
market debris. He was cultured and
eclectic in his tastes. He showed me
the cluttered dreams of Redon’s 
artistic workshop, but was was not 
impressed by the dangling guts of 
the Centre Pompidou. He was tired 
after the long march we took around 
Versailles. He coveted the tapestries
and Visigothic crowns with their 
rough cut gems in the Musee de Cluny.
He attended organ recitals in the 
Madeleine and took cheap seats at 
the Bastille opera, and even went to 
the cinema every day for a whole 
week. He made my solitary days of 
scholarship in the Bibliotheque 
Nationale bearable, helping me 
plan our outings. He gave me a 
sense of confidence as I explored
his city. He only spoke to me in
French, so my accent improved 
under his tutelage so that even 
Parisians sometimes asked me for 
directions and thought I was allemande, 
not anglaise. He shielded me from 
beggars on the Metro. He glared at 
mecs who tried to chat me up in bistros,
cafes or banged on phone-boxes as I 
called home in tears. He taught me how 
to be streetwise and give the finger to
 impatient drivers on the free-for-all of 
zebra crossings. We gazed at the Ile de 
la Cite from the prow-like park of the 
Jardin du Vert-Galant, as we ate cakes 
with greedy concentration. He stays with 
me, though our Paris is long-gone, his suit 
dove grey like the late-spring sky, his
 gold-topped cane glinting with past recall, 
like the roof of the Grand Palais.


I mount the hill of time to 
see that week’s panorama 
frescoed on my memory’s 
crumbling wall. Some forms 
and outlines still hold true 
to its plaster foundation, 
like far-glimpsed cities. 
Others have flaked into 
powder,but still hold the 
hues of their ground 
pigments; lapis, siena and 
umber. Altarpieces blur 
into one gilded frame, 
as weary Madonnas fold 
struggling infants into their 
stiff robes.Christ children 
frown like stern abbots, 
clutch doves that yearn
to fly free to cavort in 
porticoed squares, as I 
longed to. I conquered 
churches, galleries and 
rusticated palaces like a 
mercenary, glutted with
visual spoils until I was 
routed and limped back 
to my pensione, a toppling 
merchant-tower, and to 
my high-ceilinged room, 
adorned with ghostly 
paintings of lost merchant 
splendour. I looked out 
from its deep-set windows 
over a tapestry of unchanged 
streets, bridges and stalls
that clung to the Arno like 
a braided sleeve. So those 
chaste profile-portrait 
maidens gazed over other 
vistas, with their marble brows 
and Botox faces, brocaded 
gowns spread like ruffled 
spring meadows over the chilly 
peaks of their chemised breasts, 
as if seeking glimpses of their 
condottiere lovers lost to 
war or plague, gone to join 
the dance of death grinning 
down at them from church 
walls, left frozen, unconsoled 
by trappings of perpetual 
virtue; prayer books unread; 
rosary-beads slipping through 
stiff white finger-bones. But 
on the rising ground of San 
Miniato, my pilgrimage was
rewarded. I saw the celestial 
city that toiling artists strove
to capture in their bustling 
workshops. This hieratic 
scene attained its full 
dimensions. It came alive 
under the winter sun, under 
a lapis sky, with the stir of 
leaves, the scent of flowers 
as the drone of church-bells 
in the valley misted the air 
and muffled the bleat of sheep. 
And that is how I recall the 
Florence I saw then; echoed 
in the muted fragments of  
its silenced frescoes.

KATE MEYER-CURREY was born in 1969 and moved to Devon in 1973. A varied career in frontline settings has fuelled her interest in gritty urbanism, contrasted with a rural upbringing. Her ADHD also instils a sense of ‘other’ in her life and writing. She currently has over forty poems in print and e-journals including Not Very Quiet, Mono, Granfalloon and Poetica Review. ‘Gloves’ recently made top 100 in the UK’s ‘PoetryforGood’ competition for healthcare workers. Her first chapbook ‘County Lines’ (Dancing Girl Press) comes out later this year.

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