From the Top Floor of the Floating World

 (The Guimet Museum, Place d'Iéna, & l’Étoile)

 

What does it matter what you once thought? The moment is now, not then.

 All those philosophies — Christian, Hindu, Taoist, Agnostic

that you once held, albeit lightly

watch them go

let them drift onto the canvas of gold on Lacquer Peak

shifting from cloud to cloud

with the immortal sages

on the upper floor of the Guimet Museum

Remember the places you've seen

and the people you've been

and say good-bye

 

Let your mind shift backward in time

to your personal version of the Fifth Republic

your mille feuille slice of la belle France —

to the École Active Bilingue

where you learned to appreciate Shakespeare

and where you first learned to think

and to drink

and to fly amid the opulent streets in 1975

and where, forty years later you wandered the streets of Saint Michel again, and strolled up the stairs into the Collège de France, where you listened to Egyptologists and Assyriologists, the scholars of Memphis and Akkad standing in front of rooms of people reading along in hieratic and cuneiform

 

Think back to these wonderful French schools that taught you the meaning of Baudelaire and the tower of Babylon, and to all those other stupid and incandescent things done under the auspices of liquids, chemicals, and smoke

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Let these memories have their moment at Macbeth's table

and disappear

and let the impressions of the past fall like stylus marks into a gravestone of cuneiform

like a cracked line of ancient code on the Code of Hummurabi

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or like gold leaf onto an obelisk deep in the Valley of Kings

that has worn itself so thin that all that’s left of it is lost among the sand

Don’t pretend that you ever laboured to build a pyramid

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or if you like this idea

then afterwards you got on a boat

that didn’t exist in the air or water of this world

but in the deep underground journey to the Hall of Maat

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If that were you

you would no longer exist here

just as in a mere fifty years that spectre you call your self

will become a speck of gold

or just plain dust

the tiniest rock

so small that a mite might swallow it by mistake

as it crawls over a tiny boulder

in the mighty sand dunes of the Sahara

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 Let the fragments of a life half-lived

(there was so much you didn't see

and so many people you could have been)

become the dots in a pointillist painting

All those molecules that reconstitute your self in every moment

let them move you forward

down the steps and out the front door

leaving the audio guide

and picking up that piece of someone's identity

that you call your self

and walk out into rainy Place d'Iéna

with the rain blasting the streets

the heavens dropping from high in the atmosphere

bright water

up the darkening street toward l'Étoile

where you find a cafe and try to write about your self

the one that Camus says is nothing more than water flowing through your fingers

and then it stops

and the lights turn green

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