Paris is Burning — Poems by Nina Zivancevic

Paris is burning…

Paris is burning
The buildings are in flames
kids, cars, faces – shame on color
Shame on white shame on black shame
Everyone is burning with shame

Let me tell you mother, why
Paris is burning, says he,
Let me tell you mother why Paris
Is burning- the police have set children
On fire, the police have set children on fire as
These were tired of social injustice
As they were sick with social injustice

Let me tell you mother why Paris is burning- the police
Have set black kids on fire and they turned red, they turned gray
They turned to burnt flesh
Just because they are black
Let me tell you why Paris is burning,
Nothing bad will happen to me, mother
As I am white, and yet
I understand why Paris is burning,
Kids, buildings, cars and faces
Burning with shame…

The Raven
(after E.A. Poe)

And it does not mean that
all the things won’t return with their dreadful refrain ‘never more’,
remember René Char who said that “everything that was
taken was returned to him, even his little red truck,”
but what it means is they won’t come back with that crazy, insane-
but to me so dear, adorable in-ten-si-ty;

Oh, your pupil, raven, glistening in your oily eye-
shows you at your best, the perfect, arrogant and abusive creature,
domineering; your shape of a lonely bird – foreboding,
your eye, translucent and penetrating, observes me intensely
just this morning, as you land on my Kerala terrace,
yes you do and then take fruits from my palm, I’ve just cut it
for you, and as you gobble these pieces from my hand,
I hear myself whispering semi-absently
“never more”, “never more”…

nina z

The EYE
(For my Louise Landes Levi)

Perhaps I’ve seen too many things that i was not supposed to see
Why would that “first” Eye go so bad?
The third one was cured by Guru Jee in London in 2005,
that was when i saw you, David, Poyata

YOU had those heart shaped glasses…
That’s one thing I learned from YOU
/ that the sight is in the shape of a heart
We should see
with our heart , fingers, and
not with the eyes of the “real “,
A flaky illusion for us all

Who knows if we were really supposed to meet in music…
And the festival of vanity
Goes on and on…

It’s good you told me
“I don’t need to hear any people
Tell me about India”
It’s good I closed my eyes –
To see you better just this time

For my Petya,
for Eisenstein and Pudovkin

Rise people rise
Above the circumstance
Against the oppressors
Against the oppressed victims
We are all the same
Hatred leads nowhere
It chokes and stops the breath

Winter Palace’s gone
Your voice on my phone
The Arc of Triumph
The dungeons of misery
Strawberry fields forever
And Yellow vests in green submarines
Let us sing a song about them
La la la laaa la la la laaaaa

I want you
To get your act together
And start worrying about
This old weather I want you
To claim your property
Your dad abandoned in St
Petersburg and oh yes
I know —you are not Pete Doherty
I hear you say this is the end
Of all our worldly things
But it won’t be final
So I say
Come over and bathe
With me in ….Colorado Springs!

Tonite’s the night

To tend to my immortal verse
Which is 5 metro stops long
From Menilmontant to Stalingrad
Not to mention Stalin
Just grad/gorod or The Sheher or a stehtl or a stadt
CITY GIRL that I am, I bathe in
Every possibility to discover civility
In some next door Neighbour,

Belleville, the Stadt is pretty just like the times when Benjamin lived
Here writing his long letters to Adorno…

Colonel Fabien, The headquarters of The French communist PARTY
which did not believe in the commune…
Jaures, was such a nice guy after all
And now Stalingrad whose name someone changed into Vukovar…

Ooops, i’m getting off… On my way to Corentin Cariou to see why Miles Davis played with those particular friends…
A bag lady sprays her feet with perfume on a train to Corentin
I am perched on a “strapotin” thinking how life should be easier…
Breathe in and… Breathe out
Breathe in… and breathe out
I feel safe/
I’ve seen Some people from my tribe writing Poetry and
then singing it at le Chat Noir
I’ve seen Vasarely’s show at the Pompidou center
I’ve seen it all… my eyes are popping out
In red circles Square Circle
Circle Square… right there
in the center of them all… a sound reigns
where the words cannot hold
smeared with images –
Bertolucci was right while observing –
We are ruled by the image we impose on ourselves
And sure… there’s no rest
for the weary…


Poet, essayist, fiction writer, playwright, art critic, translator and contributing editor to NY ARTS magazine from Paris, Serbian-born Nina Zivancevic published 15 books of poetry. She has also written three books of short stories, two novels and a book of essay on Milosh Crnjanski (her doctoral thesis) published in Paris, New York and Belgrade. The recipient of three literary awards, a former assistant and secretary to Allen Ginsberg, she has also edited and participated in numerous anthologies of contemporary world poetry.

As editor and correspondent she has contributed to New York Arts Magazine, Modern Painters, American Book Review, East Village Eye, Republique de lettres. She has lectured at Naropa University, New York University, the Harriman Institute and St.John’s University in the U.S., she has taught English language and literature at La Sorbonne ( Paris I and V) and the History of Avant-garde Theatre at Paris 8 University in France and at numerous universities and colleges in Europe.

She has actively worked for theatre and radio: 4 of her plays were performed and emitted in the U.S. and Great Britain.

In New York she had worked with the “Living Theatre” and the members of the “Wooster Group”.

She lives and works in Paris.

Featured image Cadre Faience Stalingrad by Greenwitcher – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74805317