Le Stryge

Notre Dame de Paris, April 2020

The devil, the proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked. (Sir Thomas More)

Mon dieu, I am dying of ennui.
For nearly two hundred years
I have leant my elbows onto
the cold stone of the north tower,
poked my tongue out at the world.
Neither medieval, nor a gargoyle
with a purpose, I’m an impotent
vampire, chimera, horned child-
poisoner, monkey-faced creation
of Viollet-le-Duc, doomed
to survey the streets of Paris
in the cold, the rain, the blazing sun.

I long for the bustle of the Second Empire
and La Belle Époque’s cars and carriages.
Later, bombs blazed in exhilarating explosions,
German tanks grinding their way into the city,
years of jackboot oppression, then liberation,
revolution and riot. This city is a place
where things happen. Even in peacetime
a blazing fire ravaged this very roof.

Now there is nothing,
rien, the city deserted.
La Seine, sluggish and impervious,
flows past empty streets and empty squares
in a living nightmare. I, Le Stryge,
have become an object of derision,
some idiot gilding me with a surgical mask.
Even in my heart of stone, I have feelings.

Would anyone notice if I stretched
my sculpted wings like the dirty clouds
of pigeons de ville and shook off this malaise,
launching myself into the breeze high above
the city, finally making my escape?

Vanessa Proctor


Vanessa Proctor is immediate past president of the Australian Haiku Society. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Australian Poetry Journal, Island, Meanjin, Meniscus and Southerly, and has also been carved in stone, printed on teabag labels and set to music.

Listen to Vanessa reading Le Stryge – Notre Dame de Paris, April 2020 (2:50)

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