Paris, 1871

My wife’s been participating in an exercise of writing a poem a day in the month of April. I can’t keep that pace up, but have at least been inspired to try writing a little bit again. I recently read a book about the French “Commune” that held Paris briefly in 1871 and the violent repression that followed its rule. I was stunned that I hadn’t heard about this previously, particularly compared to the substantial time that I remembered spending on the Reign of Terror in AP European History. I want to explore the history and my ideas related to it further, but here’s a first pass.

The Reclamation of Paris

150 years ago the French
Army killed 20,000 Parisians
In “Bloody week.”
A reign of terror’s victims every day.

The victims, “Communards,” were hardly saints.
Their leaders kidnapped clergy, rioted,
And lynched police
Because they felt the city’d been betrayed.

The Army found sufficient evidence
Of insurrection, in each dirty hand:
A sooty streak
Presumed from musket-fire, a mark of Cain.

They hunted women called the “petroleuses”
Whose legend said they threw bottles of gas
Below the streets
Undermining buildings with a blaze.

Wide, elegant new-fashioned Boulevards
With open views (and lines for cannon fire)
Angled obliquely
Eased the turning of the barricades.

The government sought order (and revenge)
Allowed the ends to justify the means.
La République
Snuffed out Montmartre and fraternité.

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