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Chorus of the Guardian Cats of Montmartre Cemetery

For Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe

‘Visitor with guide and camera, welcome to this solemn place.
Do not think of us as feral as you snap our feline grace.
We fulfil a sacred duty, guarding those who in their day
laid at France’s feet their genius, and now offer her their clay.
Politicians, writers, painters, dancers, physicists here lie
high above the roofs of Paris, staring blindly at the sky.

You who come to render homage to these close-assembled greats,
(Plan du Cimetière to aid you), reading out their names and dates,
have no inkling of a power you would envy if you knew:
we are quadruped clairvoyants; we can see their spirits too.


A to Z, Ampère to Zola, Berlioz to Offenbach,
Degas, Heine, Fratellini flaunt their talents after dark.

Adolphe Sax, the late lamented, blows the horn that he invented.
Georges Feydeau, doyen of laughter, entertains the crowd hereafter.
Glimpsed beneath the evening star, La Dame aux Camélias.
Truffaut, as the light grows dim, re-releases Jules et Jim.
When the constellations peep, we observe Nijinksi’s leap.
Tristesse born of lost caresses Dalida in song expresses.

Residents of every section of this municipal ground,
in collective resurrection fabled shades abound.
Stripped of all but heart and soul, they play their parts; and we patrol.


Hark! The closing bell is ringing. Make your way back to the gate.
Don’t regret your forced departure. Paris’s delights await.
Death is long. Here we’ve been keeping watch since 1825.
As you head off to the Métro, aren’t you glad you’re still alive?’

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by the author