In the Beauty of a Lower Heaven

Autumn in Paris is like summer in a lower heaven.
Sycamores and chestnuts paint the air,
Pencil-thin branches sketch the city like Utrillo,
The Seine sets leaves in moon-glass.

We caught the metro at Bir-Hakeim
Near Vel’ d’Hiv, the Nazi detention center.
Cyclists went flying into fire and ash
In the beauty of a lower heaven.

Something grotesque in the accordion
Like a fascist playing Mozart.
Something hypnotic in the sound,
The bellowing of giving birth to terror.

In the beauty of a lower heaven
All the people are lovelier, tranquil,
Even at rush hour music tames
The writhing beast of megalopolis.

Goodnight Paris, bonne nuit,
Your accordions are like history
Repeating the music and the horror
In the beauty of a lower heaven.

Goodnight Roseline, Simone and Eliana…
We will meet again, Aviva…
The doors of the trains are opening
In the beauty of a lower heaven.

Clouds Over London

... neither God nor No-God
Louis MacNeice

Not clouds but burkas naked on clotheslines,
Hawksmoor gloom with Horus eye,
Warzone Luftwaffe left-over thunder,
Lions’ heads on building tops,
Quorum of the heavens… London fog
And a neighborhood in London fog,
The ghost of Hitchcock at the window
Of his house gave the shadow of a doubt.
Nothing was real, not buildings or streets.
Only a waking sleep from cab to cab
And a destination from which you depart.
Not clouds but statues wet in flesh
And veil, as in “The Winter’s Tale,”
Or the dead likeness of a changing guard.
North of the city an explosion; south, a beheading.
Astride the block a shadow slumps.
The head of God, a cloud in a basket.