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My friend Ronnie is a former broadcaster, a poet, and a food maven, who lived in France for years and later wrote a book called Eat Smart in France. Recently Ronnie interviewed the mystery writer Cara Black for a blog called My French Life. Black writes about Paris. Her latest novel is Murder in Pigalle.

Ronnie asks, “What drew you to this part of town?

Black: “There are two worlds in Pigalle. The world of the day with families and people who work in the shops, and the world of the night, where people work in the clubs. …

“I really like Pigalle. I discovered so much I didn’t know. [But] I get intrigued by different districts, their flavor and feeling. If I ever figure them out, I’ll probably stop writing about them.” More of the interview here, including a observations on the German occupation of Paris during WW II.

For a wonderful, unusual book with the occupation of Paris as a setting, I recommend Léon and Louise. It’s an odd love story taking place over many decades in France, written by a Swiss and translated into English. I haven’t read many books by Cara Black, but if you like novels that teach you something about a different part of the world in a rather fanciful way, I recommend Léon and Louise, by Alex Capus.

Photo of Ronnie Hess

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What makes you happy? The bluebird of happiness brushed a little air current toward me today as I crossed over a bridge at lunch. So I can report that one thing that makes me happy is seeing the jellyfish arrive in Fort Point Channel on a sunny day in late June.
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I remember being ridiculously happy at the sight of Fort Point Channel jellyfish some years ago on a Boston visit that broke up a three-year landlocked Minneapolis sojourn. Minneapolis had its points, but it didn’t have jellyfish. Jellyfish naturally lead to thoughts of 25 summers on Fire Island and going with my father at dusk to shine flashlights on glowing blobs in the water along the boat dock.
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Two poets share many Fire Island memories with me. Poem 1 is by my sister Nell. Poem 2 is by Ronnie Hess, now based in landlocked Wisconsin. I offer the conclusion to Ronnie’s “Dinner at the Shish Cafe,” and you may read the whole poem here.
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1. May 1986

Now the island belongs to the deer

And the birds and the wild bayberry flowers

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And the workmen

Wearily riding the ferry,

To work on other people’s houses,

Carrying their tools home at night.

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There’s no honeysuckle

Yet rimming the streets

And the crown-vetch sliding through

Rips in the concrete

Has no pink buds

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And the rain is like tears

Over the fog-filled ocean.

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What brush, what watery ink

Has painted this sky

The color of bruises?

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2. My husband says listening to poetry is hard work. Poems are dense.
Sometimes, I let him read mine. He sits quietly. He studies them.
He edits in blue ink in the margins, he writes words like
Good, nice image, not quite right, and meaning unclear.
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Those lines of Ronnie’s remind me of the ever ironic poet Marianne Moore, who wrote of her beloved art, “I, too, dislike it.” By which she meant, I think, that it was hard work.
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More poetry by Ronnie is here and here.

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