These arrangements of empty chairs are what’s left of celebration, argument, meditation, sleep and revelation. They huddle together like still animals in the cold. From a chair beneath a plane tree, the round tracks of a cane disappear into the gravel.
The single chairs are absent of their poets, readers and afternoon philosophers.
Those side by side and face to face are absent of their lovers, their chess players, the soon to be married and the just abandoned.
The great groups of circles and strange half-moons have lost their lecturers, their students.
We were the last two on the last night before they closed for August. When we left they gave us their baguettes. Eight of them. Sturdy, seeded flutes. We rode our bikes home down the broad empty boulevard. I drew a baguette from my basket and raised it like a saber. Attack, attack, attack you said and we wove long arcs in the night.
I was alone in the colonnade sitting against the cold stone wall. There was the same man playing the oboe. The wind blew his sheet music until he gave it up and closed his eyes and played until they began to lock the gates.
We were drunk on the rue Delambre talking about Estonia, a trip we’ll never take and the ends of our lives.
We were in the kitchen on Gros Caillou with the windows open. It was very late and they were all singing and I was watching the woman reading in her hotel room across the street. From time to time she closed her eyes and I imagined her listening to us and we were for her the city.
We were in St. Cloud in that terrible building with the doors closed and the poplars outside swaying back and forth, back and forth, and I was standing in front of all of you talking about Macbeth and Aldous Huxley and couldn’t imagine ever doing anything else.
We were walking across the bridge. It was nearly three in the morning. There was the low groan of an idling boat engine. We looked down on two divers turning in wide circles searching for the jumper. Their lights were bright white and warped beneath the surface. The police boat flashed blue while its wake splashed softly against the walls.
I posed on the seat holding our helmets by their straps waiting for you to appear from behind the glass doors. You held my waist and fast we were crashing through the night.
We were lying on our backs looking for animals in the night clouds.
I was tucked into my corner drinking hot coffee and milk. It was snowing and I was alone in the café and I looked up and realized, for the first time in years, that I might get through.
I walked home past those cafés on that boulevard holding ten copies of my first novel in a box thinking, What else could I do? Where else could I live? What could ever go wrong?
We were lying asleep on that swath of grass at the top of the gardens with the silken wind.
Here, there is always that wind like a ribbon tying memory to memory.
I am writing to you from up here with all the windows open and the late evening sun cutting across the wooden floor.
Time is measured by what has ended.