Jennifer Reeser










« Pas de Sortie »


With his wicked innocence, every morning

comes the boy again to me, small and calling,

dressed in stone-washed fabric and giving warning,

« Pas de sortie par-là! »

Pointing back behind him, he makes advance,

off L’Allée Royale, with the most intense

gaze I have encountered within all France

girding his guidance.


« No way out! » It echoes — effective lightning

through the fabled labyrinth’s growing augurs —

sweet, perhaps well-meant, but yet somehow frightening,

falsely beguiling.


For the boy was smiling with foreign magic.

Maybe he believed it himself, not knowing

how the ground we walked upon there was tragic,

cursed though enchanting.


Then again, perhaps he disguised derision,

my unused umbrella a subtle signal:

here was someone destined for certain prison,

Reverie’s captive.


Do I dare to speculate? Halls of mirrors

made that « dauphin » seem a reflected figure,

reminiscent of revolution’s terrors:

« Pas de sortie par-là! »

After all, the exit indeed existed.

Far beyond, unseen from that childish vantage,

past the clean-clipped hedgerows, so nobly twisted,

opened our way out.

Still I hear his steps on the castle gravel,

see his fair, fair hair, and his French blue trousers,

feel the wind pulled after his outré travel —

rapid and crab-like.







Notre Dame by Night


There is no peace in Paris like this peace,

perhaps no peace like this in all the world.

Benevolent and merciful in cast,

its corner circles twirl like tambourines

upon the stone façade, below chimères –

illusions of triumphant, upraised evil.

There is a peace – profound yet not transcendent –

in palaces of music, dance or art.

It is all one can ask, as far as soul,

but this is an invasion of the spirit,

completed and defeating and eternal,

wherein the fluid worship of a traveler

will neither mitigate itself, nor cease.


One feels as though this peace might travel well.

The bottle of the body being fragile

and porous, I am wondering how far –

this structure an inanimate embracing

of nature, sentimental art and pardon.

By twilight – most enamored of my sight,

how much has been remanded in such thoughts

and words as mine on this, your church, Marie?

This character and color serve as plaintiffs

of symmetry for symbolism’s sake,

and each direction recognized of Time.

The future, present, past depict themselves

en rouge et noir. Each traveler this moment

appears as if to be a fresh-faced child.


The light is kind and more-so, by these candles.

Even the sore, protruding eye gains pardon

with beauty, though the penitent and sobbing

seem rare, for this prime hour, this evening’s prayer.


An adolescent wanders from his group

of boys in uniform, and says to me,

“Bonjour,” no angst that he might go astray,

becoming lost in this millennial city.

To lose oneself in Paris is to panic

with pleasure and a sense of optimism

unparalleled in any other place,

its blissful outskirts turning bleak, its absent

provincial postcard warmth becoming cold,

inducing an illusion of starvation.

One takes the train, returns again, the Seine

suddenly comes in liquid view, and you

might find yourself content to sink and drown.

but here, one is a traveler not lost –

heavier with hope than anywhere.


To live in Paris is – at times – to lose

encouragement to all but mere survival,

so well surrounded by the pinnacles

of humanly attainable achievement.

But returning to the Notre Dame Cathedral,

to live in Paris is – all times – to gain

a steady stimulus to the extreme,

an inspiration spiting satisfaction,

each stain a simple stain within pure glass;

and failure, a mere panel in the panes.


If one should fail in climbing to the bells,

if one should fear the topmost of the towers,

those tears shed on its tables should suffice.











Jennifer Reeser was born in southern Louisiana, and studied English at McNeese State University.


She is the author of four full-length collections, « An Alabaster Flask, » winner of the Word Press First Book Prize, « Winterproof, » « Sonnets from the Dark Lady and Other Poems, » a finalist for the Donald Justice Prize, and the best-selling epic in verse, « The Lalaurie Horror. » Her poems, critical articles and translations of French and Russian literature have appeared in POETRY, The Hudson Review, The Formalist, William F. Buckley, Jr.’s The National Review, Able Muse and First Things, among others. Her verse has been set to music by classical musical composer Lori Laitman, and translated into Hindi and Czech, published on the sub-continent of India. Her work appears in numerous anthologies, including the Longman college textbook, « An Introduction to Literature, » edited by X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia, and The Hudson Review anthology, « Poets Translate Poets.


“Her translations of Akhmatova are authorized by the Moscow Agency, FTM. She has received awards in writing from Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler, from the World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets, and The Lyric.  She serves as a mentor for the West Chester Poetry Conference, and lives in southern Louisiana with her husband and children.  Her website is found at

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