Montrealaises, Part II

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on January 20, 2008 0 Comments

I was 19 and you, 21: full of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Apollonaire at Montagne’s Bistro drinking Slibovice, we imagined we were Revolutionaries side by side with Papa and Gertrude, ignoring the obvious that we were more in love with ourselves (and each other) than with reality, till one night you turned on your heels and ran uptown; the cuffs of your chinos flapped madly like bird-wings in hot pursuit, as you ran away from Montreal’s center, your center, my center.

The fountain at Carre St. Louis (St. Louis Square) on Rue Laval Est and Rue Prince Arthur, Montreal. Carre St. Louis was a former haven for artists and writers in the 19th century. August, 2007.


You yelled that the statue of King Edward VII in Phillips Square was not Nelson in Trafalgar’s London but just another hot summer night in Montreal as I stood gape-mouthed, stunned; later that night we caught up with each other on Carre St. Louis where Bohemians hung with long-dead, 19th-century Quebecois writers dessicated and shuttered in their cold, stone Victorians before we retired to your Ste. Famille apartement where, through Gitanes’ smoke, (or was it only a screen for our youthful misperceptions) we drank in Rimbaud and Apollonaire, Beethoven, Carmen, Wagner, Dylan and Stones; their words became music and Boris Vian’s synaesthetic colors became a salve for our self-consciously poetic selves – but answer me this: were you still dreaming of the high-cheekboned Tanya, the sleek Russian girl who turned you out?


I think not: Cold reality soon slapped wind-chilled ice fragments upon your beard, froze your mustache to your upper lip and made our fingers numb, which we warmed with cold-hot breaths still fragrant from morning’s first coffee kiss and smitten by last night’s perfumed slumber, spooning (as we always did) with a cat warming our feet; mid-morning we walked past Rodin’s Thinker that artists had placed on Rue Sherbrooke, (not thinking that our own comedy would lead to the gates of hell) and as you grazed my neck with your beard, I caught your scent and swooned, caught up in our reverie that no one had ever, ever felt such a love as deep as ours. Oh, youth – perceptions, misperceptions.


That afternoon, as we listened to our friends on Carre St. Louis, our Bohemians we called them, but now we call them street people – as they talked amongst themselves in French and played chess between brown-bag swigs, sorrowful that Jean-Pierre and Dominique again slept on the benches, they laughed because they were safe while their friends were not; we laughed with them because we did not understand what they were saying, as we – 19 and 21 and caught up in our self-consciously poetic selves – believed the world would turn on its end merely because we dreamed it so.

We continued in our shared delusion until our dream disappeared in a poof of smoke, wafting into the ether as all youth’s dreams do – and now as I am with another, we lay skin to skin but our souls are fully clothed as we guard against too much reality (and any dreaming); we are strangers with and without each other, lost in perceptions of what might have been but which never shall be.

But with us, it really was.

Montrealaises, Part I


Notes: Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud and Guillaume Apollonaire were among the key French Romantic poets in the 19th century, and stretching into the 20th century with Apollonaire. Others include Stephane Mallarme, Paul Verlaine and Paul Valery and numerous others. Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs de Mal modified the traditional French sonnet form in his exploration of French life and Apollonaire’s Calligrammes stretched Baudelaire’s explorations further with evocative studies of urban wastelands.


Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker (Le Penseur)’soriginal cast remains in Paris but a smaller reproduction was on Rue Sherbrooke in Montreal for many years. Perhaps it is still there. Rodin’s statue symbolizes Dante’s Divine Comedy at the Gates of Hell, with the figure representing the character Dante at the Gates of Hell, pondering his Divine Comedy. Rodin wanted the statue to symbolize intellect and poetry.


This is a construct.

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Copyright © 2008 Kathryn Esplin-Oleski

About the Author ()

An article of mine, 'On Marriage, Life, Death and Remarriage' was published in "Blended Families (Social Issues Firsthand) by Greenhouse Press." An article of mine was referenced in this book: "Margaret Atwood: a reference guide" by Judith McComb

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