Paris 1944, 2004
‘Tenez bon. Nous arrivons,’
the liberators told the restless Resistance
in messages dropped from the sky.
Von Choltitz held firm, defying
Hitler’s demand to fire the city.
‘Come quickly,’ he urged the Allies.
Laval and Petain fled as Paris rose;
hundreds died before the ceasefire.
Sixty years on, our Friday Eurostar
from Waterloo packed with rugby fans.
The hotel room near
the Place de la Bastille,
much smaller than it seemed on the web.
No matter. A late, North African
meal; a boy, bread under his arm,
skipping down the street;
kids and their dads sailing boats
in the Luxembourg gardens.
Sunday morning, stumbling upon
three young men in the square
playing Django rhythms,
guitar, double-bass, accordion.
Intoxicating, alive, the kind
of music that made my father cry.
He was a far-east prisoner in 44.
I wept, too. The spirit of Paris,
and much more besides.