The Great Wheel

In the Tuileries we came upon the Great Wheel 
rising gargantuan above the trees. Evening 
was coming on. An after-dinner stroll, descending 
by easy stages toward the river, a bridge of leaves 
above us, broken here and there by street lights 
coming on. Our time here nearly over, our return

home a shadow hovering. Paris, city of returns, 
you said, for the pleasure of it, like the Great Wheel 
looming there above us, all steel & light
& music, daredevil daunting, against the evening 
sky with the tower in the distance winking. The leaves 
still held firmly, the unthinkable descending

of what lay ahead undreamt of still, death descending 
inevitably as the Great Wheel in its return, 
(a descent first through summer's golden leaves 
and then bare ruined branches), the Great Wheel 
turning & returning. As then, with the all but evening 
over us, our wives laughing by the entrance lights,

we rose above the mansard roofs, the trees, the lights, 
lifting in a vertiginous ascent before descending, 
as we chattered on against the coming on of evening, 
our seat creaking in the rising wind, anxious to return 
now to earth's solidities. Instead, the Great Wheel 
merely sighed and lifted, stopping at the top, leaving

each of us alone now with our thoughts. The leaves 
below, green, graygreen, gray, the dollhouse roofs, lights 
like diamonds winking, aloof & distant, the Great Wheel 
playing us, two middle-aged men, each descending 
toward the Wheel's one appointed end, the Great Return 
to earth, as the books all have it, come our evening.

For all our feigned bravado, we could feel the evening 
over us, even as we stared down upon the blur of leaves, 
our wives, our distant children, on all we would return 
to, the way shipwrecked sailors search for lights 
along a distant shore, as we began the last descent, 
leaving the tents and Garden with its Great Wheel

to return, my dear dead friend, to the winking lights 
along the boulevard, leaves lifting & descending, 
as now the evening air took mastery, it & the Great Wheel.

From The Great Wheel, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Paul Mariani. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.