Cimetiere

Two years ago my father took me to Paris

And to give an example of how morbid the two of us can be

When we're together

We visited no less then three cemeteries.

The first we stumbled on by accident

It was empty and gray and we were lost, so we looked around

French cemeteries are unusual

No one is buried

They are all in stone sarcophaguses

Or small mausoleums

And everything is packed together so tight you can barely walk.

The mausoleums have huge windows, and you can see right inside

The people are buried under their floors

And the small room inside usually has a kneeler for praying

And sometimes photographs of the deceased

You could tell most of them were once visited often

Now nearly all of them looked abandoned.

My dad and I stumbled upon the grave of Manet by accident

We didn't even know he was buried there

And probably most of the rest of Paris didn't either

There was one huge mausoleum

It had a very big room inside

Set up like the room of a house

With chairs, sofas, paintings

Even ladies' dresses, laid out as if to be worn.

It was one of the most frightening things I ever saw.

The second cemetery I don't remember more then a few unremarkable markers

But the third one was magnificent.

La Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise.

Here we chatted with the remains of

Frederic Chopin, Jim Morrison

Edith Piaf and Sarah Bernhardt

(which, oddly enough, my parents used to call me

as a child because I was so melodramatic,

she being an actress)

Oscar Wilde was there.

He was Irish, lived most of his life in England.

Spent only the last few years of his life in Paris

Because he had spent the last five years in jail

Basically for being gay.

And those incriminating photos of him

Dressed in drag

And so he was buried in a foreign city

Where he had died in a hotel room

Accompanied by a single friend

And the hotel owner.

A fop to the end, his last words were,

"Either the hideous wallpaper goes, or I do."

I think we both know how that ended up.

At his tomb people had left business cards.

Things like, "Thanks for the wit!" written on the back

And I wonder how many of them knew

That story.