- After the riot in Pére Lachaise, streams
of teenage tourists flood the gates. Shadows
of the plane trees gray their faces. It seems
as if they want to mourn but cannot go
beyond the nervous laughter of rock dreams
and Coca-Cola days. Few drink Nouveau
Beaujolais now: it's just not chic enough.
Two green-haired girls smoke Gitanes and act tough.
We see two others writing Morrison
lives beneath Balzac, in chalk. Our map takes
us past more famous lines and past the sun,
where we pause to grab our breath and then shake
the summer sweat from our hair. Somewhere down
the hill, Abélard and Héloïse wake
again to try to free themselves from the stone
bed they have lain in centuries too long.
All Paris is stone, and there are those graves
everywhere as lonely as Oscar Wilde's
broad tomb. Rioting Morrison fans behaved
as a herd behaves, coming in droves to mill
round redundancy. No solitaire to save
the senseless crowd the agony of hell
showed up. There will never be a crowd round
the other slab where Oscar Wilde kneels down,
the tall wings booked by his writing hand.
Nor need there be. The legend of his life
is not his work. The work, the art, remains.
We lean relaxed upon his stone. At five
we hear the whistles blow for our return,
a prelude to the closing gates and evening
song of sparrows. Leaving we touch a fast
farewell to his high brow and what may last.
From Paris. Copyright 1997 by Jim Barnes.
Used with the permission of the poet and the University of Illinois Press.
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