Maybe everyone is walking around thinking something abstract & ontological
like The existence of others as a freedom defines my situation
and is even the condition of my own freedom. Maybe de Beauvoir
opens her notebook & writes it as soon as she sits down at the Deux Magots.
Life is inherently meaningless, probably thinks Sartre, across from her at the table,
studying the waiter. The chef savagely prepares a tart for its destruction.
Yet the street lamps blink on without thinking Light, then nothing . . .
as the booksellers along the Seine close their metal boxes.
Humming, a woman pulls her damp dress from a basket,
then clothespins her simulacrum to the line.
So maybe not everyone. Maybe I can just lie here on the couch & pet the cat
the rest of the afternoon. He seems troubled
ever since the other one died. He won’t chase that snaky rainbow thing
when I drag it over the carpet. What is he thinking? Snaky rainbow things
are but fleeting pleasures distracting us from the terror of the void that awaits us?
My first & only time in Paris was thirty years ago. It was February, & snowing.
I wandered Montparnasse cemetery while heady thoughts flurried
from the clouds, wet my face, & disappeared. Everyone I loved was still alive.
Paris is still there. The bouquinistes too—rare editions & magazines, postcards, souvenirs.
Deux Magots is still there. But now, supposedly, everyone interesting goes to the Flore.
Look at them, alive in this poem, holding their menus & about to disappear.
De Beauvoir weeps as Sartre’s lowered in.