Room 360

Poetry / Thomas March

 

:: Room 360 ::

 
          Paris, IXe Arrondissement 
          L’Hôtel R de Paris 
          2017–

Again the late light of August—again 
Paris and this room, just as we left it, 
are new again. We could believe no one 
else has slept here since we last closed the door 
on this other life that is ours alone. 
We reenact our claims on the mattress— 
who gets to be closer to the bathroom 
and who feels the first breeze from the window. 
Cash commingles on the mantle—we share 
a closet again, combining our clothes 
as we used to. We wear our black and white 
tight t-shirts, jeans, and simple shoes—we are 
not here to make a show of being here, 
breaking out in wide American smiles. 
The first few days, we wear out the clichés— 
cafés, cathedrals, and couture; Montmartre 
to Montparnasse; Poissy to Père Lachaise. 
We widen our familiarity 
until what remains is just a city 
to rediscover as itself—knowing 
all cities have been ugly once—as we 
have not always been kind to each other. 
But we always find comfort in the warmth 
of Parisian formality, in streets 
made for shadows, just off the boulevards, 
and in bed, eating McDonald’s again 
before dawn, smelling of grease and Hermès. 
Tomorrow, walk me once more to the grave 
of Oscar Wilde, and we’ll pray for us all 
and the time to reclaim this life—again. 


 

 

From the writer

 

:: Account ::

I wrote the first ver­sion of “Room 360” in Feb­ru­ary 2019 as a sev­enth anniver­sary gift for my part­ner. He, an archi­tect, made a beau­ti­ful draw­ing for me. We were sav­ing our mon­ey to return to Paris in August. We would be stay­ing again at the hotel I had found the first time we vis­it­ed togeth­er, in August of 2017. It was a small hotel in the 9th Arrondisse­ment, halfway between the Palais Gar­nier and the Place de Clichy, recent­ly ren­o­vat­ed and ele­gant­ly designed, sleek­ly mod­ern but warm­ly inti­mate. We were there for only four days, in room 360, and we were very hap­py.  

At the time of that first stay in room 360, we were already liv­ing in sep­a­rate cities, after liv­ing togeth­er in New York City for years. Although we vis­it­ed each oth­er often and trav­eled togeth­er a few times a year, being in this room togeth­er felt like a return to cohabitation—only now in a place that was ours alone, shared with no one else in our lives, in a city that we could claim, how­ev­er briefly, as our home. It was a fleet­ing sense of renewed, shared domes­tic­i­ty that deep­ened over sub­se­quent, longer stays.  

We returned to room 360 in August 2018, this time for a week. We walked between 15 and 20 miles a day, let­ting our curios­i­ty and hap­pen­stance guide us on jour­neys that were more like explorato­ry dérives than the errands of tourists. Toward the end of that trip, we vis­it­ed the tomb of Oscar Wilde, where I deliv­ered a note­book full of mes­sages of homage and grat­i­tude writ­ten by friends. As the ceme­tery was clos­ing, we snuck back to the tomb, weav­ing among the mau­soleums to avoid the secu­ri­ty guard who was loud­ly demand­ing the depar­ture of all vis­i­tors. There were no tourists there this time, and in the pri­va­cy of that sacred place, I asked him to mar­ry me. He accept­ed.  

By the time of our most recent return to room 360, this time for ten days, I had already writ­ten this poem. I made an edit to the end of the poem, where I men­tion return­ing to Wilde’s grave, replac­ing the word “again” with the phrase “once more”—leaving open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of yet anoth­er return togeth­er, but aware that this might be our last. On this vis­it to the tomb, to com­mem­o­rate our engage­ment, the only notes I left were my own, express­ing grat­i­tude and pray­ing for guid­ance and inter­ces­sion, as I imag­ine one would pray to a saint. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, Oscar Wilde is not the appro­pri­ate saint to peti­tion for sen­si­ble rela­tion­ship repair.  

And that was to be the last time we vis­it­ed room 360 togeth­er. It can be dif­fi­cult, when a thing ends, to under­stand how it was ever real—and one can waver between extremes of aston­ished dis­il­lu­sion­ment and a vis­cer­al urge to believe. When I return to room 360 this year, it will be part pil­grim­age and part recla­ma­tion. Maybe he will return one day, too. It is still a place where some­thing impor­tant was—something inim­itable and only ours. What­ev­er else may be—or come to be—true, I can remem­ber him, smil­ing over his shoul­der as he leaned out of the tall open win­dow as soon as we arrived, and I can believe that his joy there was real—and that mine was too. 

 

Thomas March is a poet, per­former, and essay­ist based in New York City. His col­lec­tion After­math (2018) was select­ed by Joan Larkin for The Word Works Hilary Tham Cap­i­tal Col­lec­tion. His poet­ry has appeared in Belle­vue Lit­er­ary Review, The Good Men Project, OUT, and Pleiades, among oth­ers. His reviews and essays have appeared in The Believ­er, The Huff­in­g­ton Post, and New Let­ters. With painter Valerie Mendel­son, he is the co-cre­ator of A Good Mix­er, a tex­tu­al-visu­al hybrid project based on a 1933 bartender’s guide of the same name. He is also the host and cura­tor of “Poetry/Cabaret,” a bimonth­ly “vari­ety salon” at The Green Room 42 in New York City that brings togeth­er poets, singers, and come­di­ans in response to a com­mon theme.www.thomasmarch.org @realthomasmarch