ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Paris Notebook, by Sarah White.


1. According to Horace


Those who cross the seas
change the sky, not their minds
I come to Paris.
Every day, it rains.

I come to Parc Montsouris
to honor Jacques Prévert
and a kiss he placed in a poem
one winter day
on this Mount of Mice.

I come to Montparnasse.
A man pruning trees directs me—
Là-bas, Madame—Charles
Baudelaire lies between
his mother, Caroline,
and Général Aupick, the stepfather
he couldn’t bear.

The poet’s friends
have pocked his grave
with pebbles, twigs, sad
plants, and a wine-flask.

Near the main gate,
Sartre and Beauvoir
await their visitors.
Some leave notes,
others, metro tickets.

Damp from the fine rain
known as bruine,
I walk a long time
to find the Becketts,
Sam and Suzanne.

When I see their names
twinned in the granite
my eyes are confused
by the veins and the sheen

and I come away changed.



2. The garden

Jacques Prévert (1900-1977), tr. Sarah White


pastel by Sarah White

Millions and millions of years
Could never never
The little instant of eternity
When you kissed me
When I kissed you
One morning in the winter light
In Park Monsouris in Paris
In Paris
On earth
Earth which is a star.



3. Souvenir 

Sold beside the Seine
for a euro:

Tour Eiffel a little
taller than a sugar cube
looms over Notre Dame—the spire,
Sacré Coeur—the dome,
Arc de Triomphe too narrow
for a Tomb of the Unknown. 

Absent, track of jackboot,
shadow of zeppelin and rocket.

Gone, the guillotine,

Oblivion of coats
with the star sewn on.

No flower of evil,
no eternal drizzle.
The town,
when shaken, fills
with snow and tinsel.



4. Mother-Daughter Excursion

She ushered me, long ago,
into the Cluny
to view la ceinture
de chasteté

emblem of husbands,
wives, Crusades,
Was it a joke,
a lesson, a menace,
she meant to offer
her virgin girl in Paris?

Less belt than girdle,
with canvas panels
cunningly locked,

the artifact—a fake—
has been removed
from the museum

where, in a round garden,
rose and blue, a royal unicorn
surrenders to a kindly maiden.


5. Il pleure…comme il pleut

To Verlaine, the sound of tears
resembles the sound of rain
falling on a town where a man
weeps for wasted years
and his heart
breaks into assonance. 

In Baudelaire’s Paris,
languors and humours 
echo moisture

Our climate’s different.
Tears and rain
don’t rhyme.

It storms,
and we have weddings.

When dawn is cloudless
loss befalls us.

Sarah White's recent book, Alice Ages and Ages (Blaze Vox, 2010) was reviewed in Offcourse #44 by Ricardo Nirenberg. She is also author of a poetry collection, Cleopatra Haunts the Hudson (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007), a chapbook, Mrs. Bliss and the Paper Spouses (Pudding House, 2007), and a lyric essay, The Poem Has Reasons: A Story of Far Love (online at She lives, writes, and paints in Manhattan. See her poems in Offcourse #44, "You mean you are allowed to do that?", "The Devastation of the Indies", in #45 "Nabokov Writes His Wife From Coker College" in #46, and Victoria de los Angeles in Issue #48.

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