A Meditation on Gertrude Stein’s Grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France


Like stones on Marc Chagall’s grave only more armfuls wet from rain where there is folly and longing and a prayer for silence. There are hundreds of soldiers and hundreds of thousands of birds resting on opulent-moneyed clouds as seen from passenger ship decks carrying passengers from Southampton to New York via Cherbourg. The ocean is not a stone is not a soldier is not a cloud. The stones slip through fingers, spill over the battered Normandy beaches and coveted hospital walls like Neuilly-sur-Seine and the cement boundary between your heart and mine. Give a stone take a stone (put it on your pocket) a curl of hair in a tiny yellow-gold locket (Yes, on the way I dropped it / A little girlie picked it up / And put it in her pocket1).


A small round mossbed is the same on the Aran Islands is not the same on Iceland (island) where Kæstur hákarl curls your lovers toes along hip bones and ladles ladling borscht into a glass portagerie where Ortolan buntings are skewered by clean cloth napkins to avoid spilling songs in laps of dirges made round by coffee spoons and absinthe and effective greediness. The small round mossbed is a pillow is an upturned bateau for children sailing in Luxembourg Gardens fountains.


Oh, Alice! What is the answer? Come round yonder to where the sun is shining warm in between clouds bursts and is there ever sunshine on your grave after that long shadow cast by neighboring mausoleum (depending on which side one stands)? (No, I don’t like the north-facing, not at all.)


Branches reaching over the crowns of once was you and once was Alice of once was Ernest and Pablo and Max and Ezra and Guillaume and Sinclair of once was Carl and Henri and Sherwood and (Zelda) and Scott go around yonder (again) to Paul Éluard (The mute girl talks: / It is art’s imperfection. / This impenetrable speech.2). The plane trees line boulevards with spittle and black ink oh! Cartier-Bresson is a country lane sometimes shading worn-soled soldiers returning from a panoply of sticks and stones overreaching Armistice in kitchen cupboards and cheese platters regarding eyeglasses rolling blue like robin’s eggs shiver in Allegheny’s summer heated Porcius Festus. You climbing over doorknobs and stick shifts like those once housed by that tall arching bearded, mustached, browed Armagnac. Oh Alice! What is the answer?


Kitty corner on curls of fern you peel an egg. You press your lips against the white, you swallow the yellow. You drop the splintered shell in footprints and tire marks (so tender is the moss please be vigilant as to not disturb its deep and monumentally sublime sleep). You place an apple against your furnace, you place it on a heaving woman lost in a garden chair no bigger than a baby basket or the shadows of nursemaids gathering woman-love the same except for rose and peel and the lips of a beautiful denuded naiad swimming without the encumbrance of legs and feet and other human accouterments. “There is no salmon, there are no tea-cups, there are the same kind of mushes as are used as stomachers by the eating hopes that makes eggs delicious.”1 The stomachers lands the so-so not so good egg. (I will run my fingers through your short salt and pepper cut and down your curving linesome line.)


November leaves brown the stain of summer gone yellow-brown as French-bred eggs and a smiling ginger-haired tourist leaves a small stone on the crown of your monument becomes the sensual of earth-ness takes back and spits out the bosom of somber-colored knit dresses. The ginger-haired tourist hurries along and now comes a young spectacled dark-haired boy who lingers while listening to self-guided ear-bud lessons. Re: the coining of the term Lost Generation? Re: 27 Rue de Fleurus? Re: Tender Buttons? Re: the artist salons? Re: Pablo Picasso’s oil on canvas Gertrude Stein? Re: Alice B. Toklas’s brownies divine?


A violence, a red rose, a white rose in a plastic-gloved hand, two pencils (pink and blue), a gray pigeon feather, an ugly not beautiful buried in foam (I regret not asking if I might please scrub the fine green moss and throw away the plastic flowers and two pencils there on your grave) to some a beauty set down in love but to others an ugliness and who finally is worthy to call something beautiful or ugly, brilliant, pale or unworthy?


“Cloudiness what is cloudiness, is it a lining, is it a roll, is it melting.1” The chemtrails are melting and flashing long trench coats leftward and rightward one sees a lone, round cloud the size and breadth of a hundred million fresh lovely ham and salted butter sandwiches notwithstanding the slaughterhouse rules of engagement or non (listen).


Turns into a turncoat and pitches westward following bison trails and universes swallowing the whole of November and the sweet apples turn sour on electrified yellow-brown saplings. A rock is a powder keg is a heaving and a purring cat lap. The earth lurches below street-level and leaves orbits of rolling hills for rivers of warm-blooded metro stations and well-defined curbs.


The bones are longing to step over the threshold, to unfurl the carpet, to get behind (sight unseen), to walk through the locked gate, the locked doors and up into the Alice B. Toklas at 27 Rue de Fleurus near the Luxembourg Gardens where the path is not garnered with hungry burl backs. If one digs out a grave and lifts the lid what does one find? Alice, oh, Alice, what is the answer? Summa Theologica (the sum total equals chaff): E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one).

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