La Seine Suspendue

A scene suspended - longing for new life during the paris lockdown


During the Paris lockdown, I escaped very early on several mornings to witness the peacefulness of the city. All alone in a Paris without people, I felt the strangeness of peace, desolation, and anxiety all at once. It seemed miraculous and reassuring to see the waters of the Seine clearer than they had been for a century. The air had become pure and crisp, and the green of the new spring leaves more intense. All was better than ever with nature, but confined behind doors my fellow humans were anything but well. I am not referring to those who fell ill with a virus, but to the majority who seemed to lay fearfully in wait.


Anxiety was exuding from beneath the doormats, be it dread for the virus itself or worry about where the world would be headed as a result. Even as the virus reminded us that we were all made of flesh and blood, divisions between us were becoming more desperately pronounced. Somewhere between life and death, everything felt indefinitely suspended. I wondered what that meant for our individual lives. How long would we have to wait?


Around the same time, I discovered a piece of music called “Scene Suspended” recently released by English composer/pianist Jon Hopkins. It was one of those hypnotic works that got under my skin the very first time I heard it. Often on my mind as I walked around the quiet city, it came to embody my mood and the mood of the times.


One morning on Ile Saint Louis, three seconds before the night lights on the Pont Louis-Philippe flashed off, I captured a photo of the Seine suspended in stillness. I immediately thought of the title “La Seine Suspendue” and made the connection with Hopkin’s music “Scene Suspended”. As it happens, “Seine” (the river) and “Scène” (scene) are pronounced identically in French.


All of this was an inspiration for the poem I then wrote entitled “La Seine Suspendue”, but the words felt so inextricably linked to the music and my own photos/videos that I was compelled to make a short movie of it all. Now, most of you are no doubt already confused about who I am and what I do, but there can be no doubt that I am not a filmmaker. The frustration of having a vision but lacking the technique to fulfill it can be heart-wrenching on Sunday and maddening on Monday. I don't know how many hours this took me, nor how many times I told myself I should be doing something else. What I do know is that I couldn’t stop.


Here I am now, humbly, with this gift for you. The music will move you, but it is not mine. I hope that the words--which are mine--will also set something in motion within you.



La Seine Suspendue


In Paris the world is contained,

As in the palm of your hand,

As in the call of your heart.

Look upon her now,

in the morning light...

Suspended.


La Seine is softly, silently calling,

beneath a hushed murmur of longing.

The lilies and lilacs are in bloom,

while our hearts seem heavy with doom,

as we sit in doubt...

Suspended.


There are bridges and bifurcations

beckoning us toward the potential

of a new day rising.

Yet in fear of that crossing,

we stand our sunken ground...

Suspended.


We want others to make the first step,

and show us the trodden path of truth,

And so we wait upon the world...

Suspended.


Heavy and ripe is our reality.

Let us awaken a new tonality.

Raise up your singular voice

from its silence, suspended.

No longer shall you merely sing along.

You must now find your own song.

For it is on you alone that the world

has been waiting...

Suspended.



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© 2020 by Carsten Sprotte