cemetery thoughts

A wall separates Père Lachaise cemetery from the city. Unless you are a bird there are not many ways in…

The roads through are cobbled. Gentler on the feet are dirt paths beneath rows of chestnut trees, dirt paths between layers, aisles, zigzags of tombs. (As if the feet know what the mind does not yet want to admit about the self…)

The place is a puzzle, an abstract multi-dimensional quilt that at once covers the land & enters my interior space in bulky shades of gray, brown, white, black, in moss-cloaked figures–angels, women with bemused, faraway expressions, hooded guardians—or are they guides?

On these final days of my long sojourn, my thoughts are cemetery thoughts: Maybe its time to let another layer go, the way wrought-iron does its paint, the way gravestones do their script…

Here exists the Communards’ Wall where 147 fédérés, combatants of the Paris Commune, were murdered in 1871, their bodies thrown in an unmarked trench by the French Army called in to quell the uprising.

Mostly their names are forgotten, but the communards had done a very brave, very necessary thing, attempting to enact rights that had been denied workers & other so-called average people, & the State unleashed its violence towards them, as the State is wont to do.

Tombe sans croix et sans chapelle, sans lys d’or, sans vitraux d’azur, quand le peuple en parle, il l’appelle le Mur.


Here exists memorial after memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, to the breathing, feeling children & adults rounded up & sent away on trains…

Memorials to victims of genocide elsewhere & to those who’ve died in too-many wars.


Here memory exists, or at least has a fighting-chance. The eye, the mind & the heart are not permitted to turn away. What’s paramount here is remembering not only the terrible & awesome expanse of the past, but also the people who gave it life—people long forgotten, people still treasured, & in some instances those whose music or words or paintings continue to give us pleasure, solace, thoughts to consider, to build on, to launch ourselves from…

One day I bring tulips. I bring slips of paper on which I’ve written lines or quotes I love. I leave these little remembrances on certain graves: Apollinaire, Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde.

On Paul Éluard’s grave I leave an orange as well: La terre est bleue comme une orange/Jamais une erreur les mots ne mentent pas…             If only…

It is the fabled Parisian spring & I am spending nearly every of my last days here in a cemetery. Monuments & blackbirds singing, tombs & flowering cherry trees, life keeps insisting….







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Poet. Writer. Curious person. Yurt-dweller. Word enthusiast. Northwesterner. Looking for poetry in some of the usual & many of the unusual places...

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