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Eiffel Tower

Don’t talk to me of love. I’ve had an earful
And I get tearful when I’ve downed a drink or two.
I’m one of your talking wounded.
I’m a hostage. I’m maroonded.
But I’m in Paris with you.

Yes I’m angry at the way I’ve been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess I’ve been through.
I admit I’m on the rebound
And I don’t care where are we bound.
I’m in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
If we skip the Champs Elysées
And remain here in this sleazy
Old hotel room
Doing this and that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There’s that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I’m in Paris with you.

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris.
I’m in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I’m in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I’m in Paris with… all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I’m in Paris with you.


“In Paris with You” by James Fenton, which you can find in his Selected Poems.

Also worth reading: Ian McEwan, a longtime friend of Fenton’s, discussing life, literature, and reading (with a nod to “In Paris with You”) in yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Book Review:

Do you read poetry?

We have many shelves of poetry at home, but still, it takes an effort to step out of the daily narrative of existence, draw that neglected cloak of stillness around you — and concentrate, if only for three or four minutes. Perhaps the greatest reading pleasure has an element of self-annihilation. To be so engrossed that you barely know you exist. I last felt that in relation to a poem while in the sitting room of Elizabeth Bishop’s old home in rural Brazil. I stood in a corner, apart from the general conversation, and read “Under the Window: Ouro Preto.” The street outside was once an obscure thoroughfare for donkeys and peasants. Bishop reports overheard lines as people pass by her window, including the beautifully noted “When my mother combs my hair it hurts.” That same street now is filled with thunderous traffic — it fairly shakes the house. When I finished the poem I found that my friends and our hosts had left the room. What is it precisely, that feeling of “returning” from a poem? Something is lighter, softer, larger — then it fades, but never completely.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be? 

I wouldn’t trouble the president with advice, or with one more transient treatise on America’s supposed terminal decline. For the sake of the general good, I’d have him absorbed in poetry. What would suit him well, I believe, is the work of James Fenton. His “Selected” would be fine. The range of subject matter and tone is immense. The long, wise reflections on conflict (“Those whom geography condemns to war”) would be instructive to a commander in chief, and the imaginative frenzy of “The Ballad of the Shrieking Man” would give him the best available measure of the irrational human heart. There are poems of mischief and wild misrule. A lovely consolatory poem about death is there, “For Andrew Wood.” (“And there might be a pact between/ Dead friends and living friends.”) And there are the love poems — love songs really, filled with a sweet, teasing, wistful lyricism… “Am I embarrassing you?” one such poem asks in its penultimate line.