licensed mark skalny
Notre-Dame de Paris
by Sarah Russell

Paris is a woman because of Notre-Dame —
the center, the mother, austere, protecting.

As a student, I lived nearby on Rue de Seine,
a lapsed protestant who found peace in her alcoves
with their candles and dusty saints, her cool scent
like ancient, cherished books, my steps on her stone floor
echoing to her heights, a child in her embrace.

She nurtured my loneliness at Christmas with songs
of birth and hope, with foreign words and rituals
that somehow felt like home.

Years later, when flames rose from her ancient bones,
I became her child again, helpless, afraid no one
could save her. I wept as her spire fell, as sirens keened
in minor key.

Today, sheathed in scaffolding, she remains the center,
the mother — resilient, still sustaining me as she is healed.

PHOTO: Notre-Dame Cathedral on the banks of the River Seine, Paris, France. Photo by Mark Skalny, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Notre-Dame de Paris is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, construction began in 1160 and was completed around 1260.  (Source: Wikipedia)

licensed ninlawan donlakkham

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I didn’t realize how much Notre-Dame meant to me until I saw her in flames on April 15, 2019. I felt I needed to be with the throngs who gathered there, who loved her as I did. I’ve had the good fortune to travel a great deal in my life, but Paris and Notre-Dame are where I return again and again. I feel at peace when I see the cathedral. It is a touchstone for my life.

PHOTO: Interior of Notre-Dame de Paris by Ninlawan Donlakkham, used by permission.

Russell

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell is a Pushcart-nominated poet who has published widely in print and online. Her two collections of poetry, published by Kelsay Books, are I lost summer somewhere (2019) and Today and Other Seasons (2020). She blogs at SarahRussellPoetry.net.