Tight in the seam of a random book, 
a small card. I pry it out, turn it over.
I’m holding Paris in my hand. 

In fancy script, “Hotel Clarisse.”
Below, a watercolor rendering–
red awnings, narrow windows. 

Beneath plane trees, it reigns over
the corner of a twisting side street
and grand boulevard. 

That April was cold and wet. Lines 
snaked long at the Eiffel Tower. Americans
in backpacks swarmed the Louvre. 

Hotel Clarisse was more faded
than glory, a long metro ride
from anywhere. But when I woke

early, I stood above traffic. Out my
narrow window, I watched women
in heels tap sharply down the street,

leave the corner boulangerie
with their daily bread. On Easter
morning, we celebrated a secular mass

of hot chocolate and baguettes
and butter sweeter than salvation.
All the church bells in Paris

that had flown to Rome 
on Ash Wednesday rang
to celebrate their return.