Megan Kemple

Bienvenue Aux Moulin Rouge

Bienvenue aux Moulin Rouge,
Monmartre, Paris, July 2012.
The train station is blue and black,
covered with the black tar of the city,
I exit through a gantlet of sordid characters
into my triple bunked hostel that is definitely a front for something else,
buy your tickets elsewhere.

I am young and white and American and lovesick,
I waste the opportunity I am given wishing I could put a lock
on Le Pont des Arts while drunk on 1 Euro grocery store wine.

Paris, November 2015.
The streets still wind in the old ways,
spilled wine cask on paved over cobblestones,
everyone is stained, dripping at the mouth
licking the filth of the city and the wine off their hands,
tongues lapping up iron tinged remnants of human essence on all fours.

Paris is burning, shooting, exploding,
my best friend's cousin runs through a hail of bullets to find his missing fiancé,
concert goers are slaughtered in their crop tops,
Paris is on fire,
but so is Syria.

The Punch and Judy Pub, Covent Garden
London, June 2012.
The bouncer asks about my military ID,
I tell him, "Yes, I'm American. My Dad's in the Army."
He lightly grabs my arm, not an aggressive gesture,
but still unexpected. 

He looks into my eyes with an intensity I am not used to,
"You must tell your country to come to Syria."

I don't know what to say.

"You don't understand", he says, "my country is suffering. You must help us."
I think I might have said
"We're already in too many places as it is, and we'll only make it worse,"
and I walked upstairs.

What I meant was look what we did to Iraq,
what I meant was we will just add to the killing,
what I meant was we've been in two wars for over ten years,
but I didn't know what he meant.

I walked upstairs, a little shaken by his desperation
and my inability to help.
"What can I do?" I asked my friends over a third round of ciders.
"It's not like I have a direct line to Obama. Who do I tell?"
There was no one to tell.
And so we got drunk, and stumbled home, and forgot about that man for three years.

The Craigendarroch,
Ballater, Scotland, 2015
a three year old Syrian boy washes up on the shores of Greece as I listen to Hozier
in the heated pool where Princess Diana taught William and Harry how to swim.
I have slipped, undetected, into a world in which I do not belong,
the water, which has been paid off like a Maitre D' to be warm and pleasant and still,
senses that my pores are not oiled with money.
The water is suspicious of me, it swirls around me like a circling shark
and I don't know if it is the water's judgment
or my own guilt for not drowning too
that throws me out of the pool and running upstairs.

The right wing fanatics blame his father's teeth,
say he didn't need to go, he just said he needed to go, 
as if a man would bury his wife and sons for dentures.
200,000 they say,
they couldn't have all had tooth aches.

We are trained to sniff out tooth aches where there are none,
it is never our fault,
we are blameless.
Drones are just video games with unedited bosses named
"Dead Civilians",
the blood of the children we killed is just dye for our fourth of July pom-poms,
those aren't bombs, they are fireworks for freedom.

Our major export is fantasy.
There are no dead boys in the Mediterranean, only vacation spots,
America is not bombing Syria, we're bombing ISIS,
there are no refugees, only people scamming you out of your taxes,
wars do not cause casualties, they are merely movie plots.

We look at newspapers like Disney cartoons,
full of people who don't look like us, so they must not be real.
We can pray for Paris, because that was in a Mary Kate and Ashley movie once,
but Syria is as real as Slenderman,
we hear it made someone bleed once, but who could have predicted it?
Besides, it's just a story made up to scare us,
let's put on some Netflix and forget about it.
No wonder they hate us. 

A Brief History of Sex And Bad Decisions

Nothing is as exhausting
as fighting the malaise of staring at the wall for most of the night.
This one night stand,
a poet on his way to nationals,
mistook my love for words as an invitation to stay and play pretend.

Despite only meeting a handful of times,
he wraps his arms around me and pulls me close,
his naked body pressed into my back.
It is a symbol I recognize,
one that maybe I used to find comfort in,
but now, I’m crawling out of my skin and the only exit for the screaming in my head
is the pathetic, silent pathway of my eyes to the wall.

I stare at a poster of Lana,
think of the Ride video:
the montage of her sweeping across America like a strung-out Scarlett O’Hara
in the arms of America’s Most Wanted,
each specimen of aging, fat male aggression more disgusting,
yet somehow alluring, than the last.
There is no danger here,
nothing to help my over-stimulated neurons light up like Christmas Trees:
just a sweet, insecure boy attempting to spoon wildfire.

I’m not completely sure how we got here.
A bottle of Champagne, two gin and gingers, and a couple beers
have fogged the details of what, exactly, I was supposedly attracted to,
not that it matters.
If I had to hazard a guess,
I’d say that I felt bad he cancelled band practice,
and since it was the same number of steps from the bar to my door as it was to his car,
I let him in. 

Poetry, unfortunately, is the language of love,
and I always forget that love and destruction are not synonyms for everyone else.
He has brought a quiet naiveté,
a saccharine greeting card hope into this post-apocalyptic brothel,
and I don’t have the heart to tell him it will get him nowhere.

I wish I could tell him to file it behind the broken, divorcing actor,
and the bartender turned Marine I fucked last week.
I wish I could explain that this is a boiled reduction of pure physicality,
I have purposefully evaporated any hint of emotion.
I might be an actress,
but I hate feigning affection.
Nothing cools me inside like empty reminders of what used to be
from the lips of an imposter. He will never be Him.
And since no one will ever be Him,
and He’s got Her,
it doesn’t matter who I bring home.
Like this poet, whose sweetness has soured the moment
and brought this depressing six hour purgatory upon me.
My shoulder’s are sore from flinching at his touch,
and the transition from drunk to hungover is giving me a migraine.
I need a blunt and some water,
but mostly for this guy to go home.
L’enfer, c’est les autres.

Or maybe Hell is self-created.
If so, I’ve built the demonic Versailles.
I spend most of my time in the Hall of Mirrors,
an endless succession of ghosts no one else believes in
spinning around an endlessly repeating portrait of gilded addictions.
It’s fitting the King’s Bedroom is right smack in the middle of that incessant and inescapable hallway, built to steal all the rays of the rising sun for Himself.
Built so He can shut me out and always know I’m still waiting at the door.

Or maybe it’s in the chapel that I’m trapped, 
holding vigil for this tempestuous and untouchable God
whose love teaches me how to ask for the suffering,
to obey the blind faith that He still loves me though He refuses to show it,
to wait
for His promises to be fulfilled.
Either way, it’s a beautiful way to lose your head.

But this poor poet could never rule my personal hell,
and so he is of no interest to me. 

Megan Kemple is a transient Army Brat actor, poet, playwright, and teaching artist currently residing in Buffalo. Her poetry has been published in Vending Machine Press, and her plays have been performed at Road Less Traveled Productions, Buffalo United Artists, American Repertory Theatre of WNY, Springville Center for the Arts, and Niagara University.