It’s a rite of passage for any young writer
to visit the grave of their hero, pay respects
and, in some ways unconscious, in others agonistic,
tastefully pry the baton away for themselves
with some sentimental, occasional piece
that never sees the light of day. Concerning weather,
whether or not it was sunny, it should be gray.
So it was gray when I arrived, gray and overcast,
and the trees were all bones, except it was summer.
His grave wasn’t so easy to find—I mean without
the map they give you, then it’s a scavenger hunt.
One man, prowling the grave of Sartre and Beauvoir,
fired off the Canon round his neck, turned to his wife
and declared, “Next.” It was getting close to lunch.
Finding it in the shadow of a much taller
mausoleum, I stopped, gathered my solemnness,
but was suddenly taken with wondering why
his name was sandwiched between those of his mother
and stepfather—it might as well have been the stepfather’s—
which I don’t think the stepson would appreciate.
Only forty-six? Was he only forty-six?
There’s the rite, too, of the stomach like a diving bell—
I hadn’t properly contemplated the importance
when a woman swooped in like a bird on a wire.
“Oh! Guardate,” she called out, “questo è Baudelaire.”
Six vacationing Tuscans fell upon the site.
I placed a pebble, a gesture for his hard work.
For mine he said, “Tant d’appas répugnants !”