It isn’t what he said in Casablanca
and it isn’t strictly true. Nonetheless
we’ll always have them, much as we have Paris.
They’re in our baggage, or perhaps are baggage
of the old-fashioned type, before the wheels,
which we remember when we pack for Paris.
Or don’t remember. Paris doesn’t know
if you’re thinking of it. Neither do your parents,
although they’ll say you ought to visit more,
as if they were as interesting as Paris.
Both Paris and your parents are as dead
and as alive as what’s inside your head.
Meanwhile, those lovers, younger every year
(because with every rerun we get older),
persuade us less, for all their cigarettes
and shining unshed tears about the joy
of Paris blurring in their rear view mirror,
that they’ve surpassed us in sophistication.
Granted, they were born before our parents
but don’t they seem by now, Bogart and Bergman,
like our own children? Think how we could help!
We could ban their late nights, keep them home
the whole time, and prevent their ill-starred romance!
Here’s looking at us, Kid. You’ll thank your parents.
Mary Jo Salter’s eighth book of poems, The Surveyors, will be published by Knopf in 2017. She is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and lives in Baltimore.