A Poem by Robert Strzalko

A selection from The Sun Loves Every Planet


I was thirteen

Almost fourteen

My brother, fifteen

I didn’t know about Maugham

Or that he had written there

I didn’t know about Cézanne

Or that he had painted there

Changing the way

The world would see

I only knew

That it was good to take in Paris

Through the eyes of a boy

Bursting with so much passion

That it would soon be impossible

For me to contain it

In any reasonable way

I didn’t know anything about

The French Revolution

Other than a brief mention in school

That it took place soon after

The American one

I knew nothing of Mozart

Or The Marriage of Figaro

But, I felt something stirring in me

Something magical

As I looked at the men from Africa

So black of skin they looked blue

And wondered why

Africans were in Europe and not Africa

With their carvings

Spread out on blankets

Not wanting their pictures taken

Under the Eiffel Tower

My Luxembourgian aunt said

Was too expensive

For all of us to go up in

The Parisian street stands

Were littered with men

Selling newspapers

And skin magazines

I tried to avoid looking at them

But it was impossible

They were everywhere

I was shocked to see such a thing

Out in the open

For everyone to see

I felt self conscious

In the presence of my aunt and cousins

Sick, perverted Europeans

That’s what Americans think

My aunt told me with a smile

As though she had read my mind

As we tasted wine and pastry

At an outdoor café

I tried not to be too obvious

About checking out the French girls

I was amazed that the men

Sitting next to us playing chess

Didn’t lose their concentration

The only time

They took their eyes off the board

Was to pour another glass of wine

Perhaps they took it all for granted

It was just another day to them

A day like any other

But it was all I could do

To remain in my seat

When they walked by and smiled at us

Acting as nonchalant

As I was capable of

I pretended as though

It wasn’t the most exciting thing

That I had ever experienced

As we drove past rolling hills of grapes

In the French countryside

On our way to visit the palace of Versailles

All the places we saw that summer

Drifted through my memory

Museums in Brussels

Canals in Amsterdam

Statues and fountains

Women standing in windows

Waiting for customers to come along

Mountain top chateaus in the Alps

Stone walls with bullet holes

From World War II

Cathedrals adorned in gold

Castles high on hills

Some quite old and laying in ruin

Others more recent

Elaborately furnished

In velvet, marble, and wood

Paintings of knights clashing in battle

And suits of armor guarding

Corners of spiral staircases

Leading to towers

Captured my imagination more

Than the ancient weapons of war

Hanging on walls

Alongside torture devices

That were at one time

The rage of the day

© 2018 Robert Strzalko

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Added on September 4, 2018
Last Updated on September 4, 2018
Tags: Strzalko, Paris, Europe, Adventure, Travel, France, Poetry


Robert Strzalko
Robert Strzalko

Loves Park, IL

Hi. I'm the author of A BULLET FOR TWO, THE COLOR OF DREAMS and THE SUN LOVES EVERY PLANET. A BULLET FOR TWO won a NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the Western Category Fall 2011. THE SUN LOVES.. more..


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