Published on Academy of American Poets (

How Many Lives Have We Lived in Paris?

We’ve lived the life of an unbridled boy 
Mastering the higgledy-piggledy metro, 

Tapping the fast-moving window,
Loving the a cappella names 

Of the heralded stations:
Saint-Paul, Bastille, Gare de Lyon—


The life of a downtrodden clochard,  
Sly, indigent alley crone, 

Still wrestling to recover 
A long-deterred tune:  

Chevalier, dauphin, Parisian charmer,
Don’t you know I’m blue without your wink?


The life of a pendant, park-facing willow, 
Oh sweet, avuncular life—


Incarnation of a curling swan—


The life of an insouciant schoolgirl 
Boulevard-prancing then skipping

In the candle-pale voile of her lark-
Light Corpus Christi dress—


Life of a heartfelt nun whispering novenas
And bidding God’s blessèd day adieu—


The taciturn, time-and-again life 
Of a ringlet-haired racehorse

On a raucous kids’ carousel:
Its red-gold, undignified Sundays—  


Fat life of a tantalized basilica tomcat
Chasing a fly-by-night sparrow in the pews—


The jubilant life of a sweetheart, answering 
Yes, oh yes, I will,

Mon amour, trésor,
You can toss your hat now into the air—


Copyright © 2021 by Cyrus Cassells. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘How Many Lives Have We Lived in Paris?’ was indeed conceived and written in Paris during my sabbatical year there in 2013 as an ecstatic, episodic ode to the City of Light. Most of the poem's ‘lives,’ including the curling swan and the carousel horse, are from the Parc des Batignolles, across the street from where I lived on rue des Moines.”
Cyrus Cassells


Cyrus Cassells

Winner of a Lambda Literary Award in Poetry for Beautiful Signor, Cyrus Cassells was born in 1957 in Dover, Delaware.

Date Published: 2021-03-29

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