It’s a rite of passage for any young writer

to visit the grave of their hero, pay respects

and on some level unconscious and agonistic

tastefully pry the baton away for themselves

in the form of a poem about visiting

the master’s grave, and about the weather that day—

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, pausing by the grave of Sartre and Beauvoir,

fired off the Canon round his neck, turned to his wife

and declared, “Next one.” It was getting near lunchtime.


When I found it in the shadow of a taller

mausoleum I stopped, gathered my solemnness,

but was suddenly taken with wondering why

his name was sandwiched between those of his parents

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 set a pebble, a gesture for his hard work.

For mine he said, “Remember what you’re working towards.”

R. Charboneau

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