Arrete! C’est ici L’Empire de la Mort—

by Jéanpaul Ferro

On that cold October day we escaped the Paris rain
by going down the spiral staircase of seventy-seven steps,
fifty feet below into the graffiti filled Catacombs, into the

deeper and deeper we ran through the revolution of years,
black pools of underground rain collecting on the ceiling,
like years of rain that was suppose to quench and protect us,

you kept smiling, nervously laughing, your hand pulling at
your v-neck shirt, trying to cover over your breasts from the cold,
running and running through the years until we reached the painted
pillars, a doorway between them, where this sign stops you in your

Stop! Here is the Empire of the Dead—

Into the room of the dead we rushed, russet and brown stained bones
piled atop each other as walls: arm and leg bones, ribs and shoulders,
men and women, the rich and the poor and the young and the old,

fast death /slow death,

the apple size eyes of their skulls staring out at us as we stood there
together, intricate patterns that are meticulously placed in both dignity
and symmetry, six million dead below the streets of Paris, France
(beating on anyway),

and you held my hand tight and leaned into me; and you whispered
in my ear right then: “I wish I were dead sometimes, too!” you said;

and I knew what you meant, but I was afraid to admit it in fear of
egging you on.

Jazz (Honest Publishing, 2011); featured in Emerson Review; Salzburg Review

Jéanpaul Ferro's picture

A 10-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Jéanpaul Ferro’s work has appeared on National Public Radio, Contemporary American Voices, Columbia Review, Emerson Review, Connecticut Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Portland Monthly, Rattle Magazine, Arts & Understanding Magazine, and others. He is the author of All The Good Promises (Plowman Press, 1994), Becoming X (BlazeVox Books, 2008), You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers (Thumbscrew Press, 2009), Hemispheres (Maverick Duck Press, 2009) Essendo Morti – Being Dead (Goldfish Press, 2009), nominated for the 2010 Griffin Prize in Poetry; and Jazz (Honest Publishing, 2011), nominated for both the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize and the 2012 Griffin Prize in Poetry. He is represented by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. Website: * E-mail:

Last updated August 30, 2011