Phil Cousineau, “For My Father Who Never Made it to Paris”

It was given to me on a bookmark, each word of the poem spilling onto the next on both densely writ-in cardboard sides. I’d got it from the old barber around the corner of the street I used to live on, who’d been keeping it for a friend and had told me he no longer had need of it. The gravity of that statement, I have only recently come to grasp.

I lost the bookmark on a rainy day a year ago today, but the poem has stuck with me. It’s a treasure, reposed in the author’s lifelong collection of poetry titled The Blue Museum.

The following belongs, in my traced memory, to the friend of the old barber who perhaps never made it to Paris.



For My Father Who Never Made it to Paris

Phil Cousineau, for Richard Beban

For my father who never made it to Paris
I meet friends late at night in smokey cafes
To drink frothy cappuccino and listen
To Coltrane sax solos on old jukeboxes
And talk of the wounds
Of fathers and sons

For fathers and sons
Who never returned home,
I reach down for words to express my grief,
Like an emergency ward surgeon groping
For stray sharpnel in the flesh
Of bleeding loved ones.

For all the words never found between men,
The buried burning words slowly infecting us,
I drop quarters in no-name bar telephones.
To call suicidal friends, distraught fathers,
Lone wolf sons who howl at the indifference of the moon,
And offer the round table of brotherhood.

For all the tumors caused by sorrow,
And all the ulcers formed by anger,
For all the nightmares wrought by rage,
And all the emptiness carved by despair,
I probe friends and family
For healing stories.

For my father and all fathers
Who never saw Paris,
One friend listens, reveals,
Reaches in an open wound,
Finds a piece of gold shrapnel,
Cashes it in for airfare,
Takes his father to the Left Bank.

So the healing
Can begin.

Paris, 1986


Photography: Alex J. | SOUTH KOREA. Seoul. 2013.

Reflective Surface

FRANCE. Paris. 2014.

As always, consistency problems have caught up with me. The past two months (without a single post!) have been a cauldron of cheek and trouble somewhat typical of whatever travel-heavy period follows an existential lapse. Hence the graffiti wall that is my state of mind — with the new constantly replacing the old, yet with the old still buried underneath — a cluster of conflicted personalities, and sideway glances.

This post is a very honest one, and the shot, a personal one. It helps also that I’ve managed to fix the blog layout! I’ll keep up this time.

Humans of Paris II

FRANCE. Paris. 2014.

Three different shots at three different locations around Paris: the first near Odéon, the second on Canal Saint-Martin, and the third on Rue Bobillot on the way back to the dorm from school Centre. My chronic problem is that I tend to shy away from face-on shooting. As one might expect, there are people that mind less and there are those that mind more. My approach is to refrain from objectifying people (as in, making people feel like they’re “things” being photographed; more on subject vs. object in this post). Often my solution is to halt for a moment to snap a shot, then to carry on briskly. The point is to be unobtrusive.

The problem with this is that I can’t always look through the viewfinder. This works if you are intuitively aware of how your lens will frame the scene just by “feeling” it. Unfortunately my mastery of the camera is not yet at that level, so I get some, miss some. This method, however, does make for excellent candid photography, mainly because then the subjects are not startled by some creepy photographer trying to snag a shot of them. The last one in particular was taken in this manner. It’s a lot less sharp than the first two shots since I was still in movement when the shutter was pressed, but I’d say there’s more of a spur-of-the-moment feeling to the image.

Over the Seine

FRANCE. Paris. 2014.

Another colour shot, taken on a bridge over the Seine near Notre Dame. Dusk is probably my favourite time of day, for the sombreness that accompanies it both in feeling and in colour. In French the expression is “entre chien et loup”, which translates to “between dog and wolf”. I initially thought this was some werewolf reference, but apparently it originates from the popular saying that once it gets dark enough, it becomes difficult to tell a dog from a wolf.

On an entirely unrelated note, I dropped back into Paris from my 9-day trip to Croatia yesterday! More on my travels later — look out for photos and reflections to come very soon!

Motion: Skates

FRANCE. Paris. 2014.

Picking up cones following a stunt performance just in front of Notre Dame. I was hoping to capture the sense of motion in the shot. I’m currently packing my bag for a 9-day backpack trip to Croatia, leaving tomorrow afternoon. It won’t be a terribly long flight — at least, certainly not as long as what I’m used to, which is anywhere from 9-14 hours — and really my foremost concern at the moment is deciding what lenses I want to take!