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