Of course you will find them at the Comédie-Française
In the theaters, concert halls, museums, monuments
Or straight at the Paris Opera

But I tell you they are everywhere –
And they will not leave you alone
They lurk at every street corner
The likes of Napoleon or Emile Zola
Everywhere you least expect them!

They haunt the streets, the avenues,
Invisible, but thickly layered among the
Red velvets, the gilt, gold marbles of the past
Palais des glaces of a café
Here was Chopin, here was Rodin
All tangled like in a maze.

They confer together, hang out
Around the wrought iron curlicues of a Metro station
Michelangelo, Picasso, Mirabeau
Or around the Medici fountain
On the Jardins du Luxembourg
One of their favorite spots

You thought you were finally alone,
Your raise your head and here is a school
In the name of Jeanne d’Arc, Anatole France
Or Jules Verne
Now you bump into Jean de la Fontaine
And Moliere hanging out on Place Victor Hugo !

They cavort on the Champs Elysées or Montparnasse
Consulting on the latest Ballet at the Opera
or with Alfred de Musset on a new intrigue
by Alexandre Dumas, La Fayette and Robespierre
Plotting some new political tragedy starring
Jean Jacques Rousseau and Picasso
At the corner of Metro Bastille.

On every corner, rue Balzac (Paris 8e)
Rue Racine, rue Corneille
They roam like the breeze
Slithering inside government-funded museums,
Almost tangible in dusty passageways
Leafing through ancient bouquiniste’s books.

Sometimes you hear their voices on France Culture
They make themselves known that way too,
You hear their poems, their plays,
You see their famous masterpieces
You cannot avoid their ballets, concerti
Their romances, their tragedies
Soon you cry for mercy!
You bathe in an ocean of all those beauties
Until wave after wave, the layers of the past
Shape you, surround you
Slam into you at every street corner –
Now an architectural treasure
Calls out to you around a Haussman avenue,
And so many other heroes, kings and queens
Poets and philosophers, musicians, choreographers
That you didn’t even know,
Populating and crowding
The Pont Mirabeau, Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts
Competing for your attention!

Here, in my office in New Hampshire, I get some rest.


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