Posted by: John Looker | 4 February, 2015

Au Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Au Cimetière du Père-Lachaise


It’s not for the grave of Oscar Wilde we’ve come,
nor Chopin or Marcel Proust, though many do –

as if a photo of oneself against the tomb,
grinning, would give their works the honour due. 

Turning our backs on this we have a view
right across Paris from up here on this ridge:

morning shines on the Seine and on the roofs
and life rushes on, just water under a bridge.


© John Looker 2015

This is my contribution, today, to the 2015 International Poetry Month hosted on Bonnie McClellan’s blog. Each day a new poem on the theme of water under the bridge can be read at: 



  1. Very fine. Both as thought and as style. The epigrammatic form, however traditional, throws into relief the final complex fluid image, and the story of second stanza is like a mindful version of the story of the first. The poem meditates on and mediates the dialectical doubles it depends on, but the final image, for me, releases us from the mechanics of opposition in a moment of illumination: water/roofs– and metaphor: life/bridge. Multum in parvo, John!


    • It’s kind of you to say this, Tom. Like you, I’m always keenly interested in how form can underpin a poem, but I am especially pleased you feel the final image pays off. Thanks.


  2. I agree with what Tom says about dialectical doubles—in a very brief space you have managed to oppose us to them, then to now, and here to there. But the final image, for me, is not that release from opposition; rather it intensifies and summarizes dichotomy by recalling the beginning—the men of fame as opposed to anonymous life of “just water under the bridge”, tying everything together beautifully, tightly, in what may be a resignation….or maybe a choice.


    • Thank you Cynthia. I greatly appreciate your thoughts.


  3. I like that juxtaposition very much. I am one who loves to stop at graveyards, especially the more unknown ones that appear on the edges of fields and right beside a highway, rows of old grave stones like stained, crooked teeth. I suppose it’s the historian in me. But I, too, feel that contrast while in a grave yard, of life flowing on and on beside the stillness and finality of something…dead, that has died, death. I haven’t visited one in a while, but perhaps I will soon.


    • Yes, I hope you do! My wife is very fond of visiting graveyards, old and new, for their intensely human interest. Père-Lachaise we liked a lot.


  4. Water under the bridge, the fame is gone and in the background life goes on. Very lovely poem, wel constructed.


  5. ps Looker?


    • Yes, because there are several other poets publishing under the name John Stevens. I needed a pen name. Looker was my mother’s name, and I never knew her father who died in the London Blitz.


      • Oh I see! I did notice another one. What a horrible history of your grandfather, so sad. Nice to know the name continues 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, so all of the past and even today is, or is in the process of becoming, water on the bridge, eh? Even Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and Marcel Proust, who we have not come to see so that we can see the glory of Paris. Ah, you are a clever poet sometimes, John. Clever.


  7. John, I too love how you worked this – the graves of long-dead Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Marcel Proust, (et al), and the “water under a bridge” metaphor of the here/now. Life moves on, and so do we. Puts it all into perspective. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: