I didn’t go inside Nicholas Flamel’s house
when we finally found it down Rue Montmorency.
We were exhausted.
It was after the Pere Lachaise cemetery. We had been walking all day
down cobblestone avenues of littered with graves.
But we leaned against the other building to take pictures,
which honestly don’t do it justice.
It’s from the 1400’s, understand?
It’s just been sitting there for ages, you see.
Weathering harsh winters and blistering summers.
Rainstorms, vandals, the endless chatter of Frenchmen.
But I also didn’t go in because it scared me.
It looked fancy and we just wanted a place to sit down, have some wine
before we figured out what to do about food.
Right there I lost the map, leaning against that wall,
it slipped out of the back pocket of my jeans,
as if I was pick-pocketed by the alchemist, himself.
We wandered off, and it wasn’t until much later that we knew it was gone.
“It’s just a map,” I said. “We can get another one.”
But we both knew that wasn’t true.
It wasn’t just a map. It was an archeological treasure,
ripped already from repeated folding, the paper gone soft like parchment
and numbered in wet ink so we could find all those old ghosts.
#17 – Hemmingway’s first apartment
#5 – L’Hotel – Oscar Wilde’s death,
and so on, you see. It charted our every day.
The man at the café didn’t speak English but I went back in there anyway
to see if I left it on the counter.
We retraced our steps in exhausted silence.
And we found it back at Flamel’s place,
laying on the floor, taunting us.
French men and women stepped around it.
All hope was restored.
This time, you put it in your pocket, with a nod.
Flamel, that old codger, with his empty grave
and his death-less life.
Watch your pockets.
He could be anywhere, you know.
20 hours ago