A Montparnasse August
with view of the Cimetière. A yard of bones.
We wake to it. Close curtains to it.
Wake to its lanes. Rows of coffin-stones in varying light.
Walking here. Late with shade low, low, long.
We’re passing through, just passing through
neat aisles of gray mausoleums.
(From Paris. Send this postcard. This one.
Calm water lilies. Water lilies.
It’s morning. Baudelaire’s tomb.
Tree limbs casting shadow west.
This, a lot of time under a looming sky.
Nobody has time like this.
(Time to go to Le Mandarin for coffee
every day. We’re not complaining.
They bring the milk separate.
Watch the passersby on Saint-Germain.)
Nothing to ponder. This is the plight.
Pause by Pigeon in bed with his wife —
both fully dressed.
Pink flowers, pink flowers,
just beneath de Beauvoir’s name.
When she lived she lived two doors down.
Went south in August.
All of us smell of heat all the time.
We are the living. Oh dear!
There are the dead ones there.
Their thoughts more familiar, though.
Lives finished, nearly clear.
And they make it possible for us to go on living
as we do in their blue shade.
-Clarence Major’s forthcoming Selected Poems