Alive, Paris • Barbara Buckman Strasko

On the way to the bar
I counted seven birds flying into
an open window on a rooftop.

And now the clatter of silverware,
espresso machines, and the waiter
who mimes John Travolta

as he dances from table to table
singing “Staying Alive” in a thick
accent. Just last night, I spent

hours with a woman afraid
to go home even though she’d changed
the dead bolts. I told her about

my friend Beth: killed the night
she went back to her husband.
I may have been the last one besides

him to see her alive. I’d walked with her
across the field because she was afraid.
At the funeral, some yelled at him,

some looked down, unsure. Silent,
I could not look him in the eyes.
At the trial suspicion was cast on him,

but no conviction. I remember a night
I’d stopped to see them. Mark had just read
How to Save Your Own Life. So had I.

He said, “Don’t you think Beth should?”
Maybe if she had, or if I had put her
in my car that afternoon, she’d be alive.

Years later I saw him at a bar. I looked
into his eyes, then went into the toilet
and threw up. It was then that I knew.

As I leave this Paris bar, it’s the feathers
in the courtyard that I gather, that I worship
and then toss into the Boulevard. When

the light hits them on the street,
when the traffic crushes them,
that’s how I want him to feel.