"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in Baudelaire (2)


Paris: Vision


The following poem is included in a book of photos my sister, Suki, created after a trip to Paris in May 2008. My mother gave her children the gift of a lifetime, a trip to Paris for my four siblings, Jane, Jon, Ann and Suki. I was already here. She arrived needing an eye operation which was scheduled for after she returned home to Arizona. But she is a stoic Norwegian-American Viking, and explored Paris with the five of us, ignoring the pain. By the end of the ten days, she was walking down steep steps, in spite of also needing a hip replacement, which she's since had.

Richard traveled, while my mother stayed in our apartment with me. It was wonderful to be able to market and cook for her, after the thousands of meals she made for the five of us throughout our childhood.


Betty Heimark Kitchell and Kaaren


While my father was alive, he and my mother traveled around the world. After my father died in 2006, my mother was in a stunned state for two years, and said she would never travel again. This was the first trip she made after his death. We all felt his presence with us in Paris.



                  For my mother, Betty Heimark Kitchell


Two eyes

gaze out from the Seine:

the eye of judgment,

the eye of dream.


We cross into the left eye:

Here is where Camille Claudel

wrestled lost love

into faithful stone,


where Baudelaire wove

his poems out of smoke,

where Breton planted

Les Champs Magnétiques.


(Here is the place

on her left eye

that teared up,

preventing her from seeing.)


Here is the Pont St.-Louis where police

tortured a gypsy for a crime--

her mother cursed the bridge

and it crumbled seven times.


We cross into the right eye

where tulips bend their heads

over smaller blooms

in the park named for a pope,



past pink cherry blossoms,

through the Portal of Last Judgment,

and enter Notre-Dame.

(Here is where he and I


lit a votive

beneath the painting of mother and child

and prayed to pagan Demeter

for the health of her eye.)


Here is the Hôtel Dieu,

the first hospital in Paris,

where a drag queen stands in the quadrangle

dressed like Snow White.


Here is the Conciergerie

where Marie Antoinette was locked

before losing her head. (Her judges,

Danton and Robespierre, lost theirs too.)


Here is Sainte-Chapelle, the king's chapel

where 15 windows blaze with blue,

green, gold, red, mauve light,

and stars spangle the ceiling.


Here is where we remember our father's

Four Seasons (blossoms opening, bees

buzzing, horses galloping, snow falling).

Tears spangle our cheeks.



And here is the Square du Vert-Galant,

the old charmer, Henri IV,

most beloved king of France

astride his bronze horse.


Willows hang heavy as lashes

in the corner of the eye

where the bateaux mouches1



Where she descends

hundreds of steps

and we embark, exultant,

under the bridges of ghostly faces



carved in stone,

our boat sliding

toward the tower of lace

flooded with light.



We have passed

through death, passed

through suffering,



[1] Open excursion boats that provide visitors to Paris with a view of the city from along the river Seine.





Café de Flore. It’s late.

We sit and plan our Book of Dreams.

In our carnet de croquis[1], we’ll draw or collage our wish

on the right hand page, and when it comes true, note it on the left.


When I say “Soupe a l’oignon,…non, un omelette fromage[2],”

the Asian waiter, a professional, gives me the look:

Don’t I know what I want?

Richard orders soupe a l’oignon, a décafé crème.

Then we get down to the business of the night: watching people go by.


A flock of fast-talking British girls in short spangly skirts.

Short stolid couples stroll arm in arm. An elderly gent

with a blond beauty, a young Gena Rowlands.

Quick-walking tall and thin young Frenchmen.

A dark-haired couple and son— maybe Israeli—take the next table.


The single smoking blonde to the other side leaves. Hooray!—

we can breathe. Two French guys sit down and talk of Chet Baker

while do do do wopping sounds to one another.

The waiter brings us food and drink. We eat and drink.

I tear my place mat into the size of a carnet page. 


A car parked in front of us tries to leave

but is blocked by the double-parker.

Richard says, “There’s a note on the windshield.”

“Let’s bring it to his attention,” I say.

Richard runs over and hands the man the note. It’s a ticket.


Everyone watches from their sidewalk seats. The blocked driver

is out of his car and playing to the crowd. Two men lounge

beside his car, smoking. One looks like Alain Delon with that boyish

French face, Levi’s and dark blue shirt. He knows where to stand

to be observed. Everyone conjectures. Where could the driver be?


A young woman dashes out of the Café, long tangled hair and jeans,

slips into the car laughing, pulls up, waits till the blocked driver leaves

and expertly backs in. The two young men chat her up.

Pretty and breezy, she laughs and disappears. Everyone approves.

She’s good looking, and handled this with style.


The air musician next to me says, “Tout est bien, qui finit bien.”

We get up to leave, the drama over.

“How do you say in French,

‘All’s well that ends well?'” Richard asks.

“That’s just what the guy next to us said!”


The next morning I read in Baudelaire:

“Elle croit, elle sait, cette vierge inféconde

Et pourtant nécessaire á la marche du monde,

Que la beauté du corps est une sublime don

Qui de toute infamie arrache le pardon.”


She believes, she knows, this infertile virgin,

—Who still is necessary to the world’s parade—

That beauty of the body is a gift sublime

Which can extort forgiveness for the basest crime.[3]   


Charles Baudelaire 

[1] sketchbook

[2] onion soup…no, a cheese omelette

[3] (113 * ALLÉGORIE) “The Flowers of Evil & Paris Spleen; Poems by Charles Baudelaire,” translated by William H. Crosby, with a few tweaks by K.K.