by Charles Bane, Jr.
T here were no memories of Paris that the unnatural could dislodge. There were no cafes, nor motor trips to Spain, or the remembering of the city as I knew it as a young man that could be spoiled by the zombies. Paris, somehow, would make them her own and change them into only a nightmare that dissipated in the Spring, like an unseasonably cold winter that when the snow had plummeted to its sad end and the streets of the Marais were no longer crippled by banks, but straightened, the city would be herself again . It would be unfrozen from its terror like the last time I entered as an invader retreated, and hurried to Shakespeare and Company. Sylvia had hidden all her books, and the Germans had put her in a camp for six months. After her release, she lived near the bookstore and its cache above, but did not dare walk near. My jeep pulled up before its shuttered front and Sylvia, hearing that Americans were there, rushed to see and recognized me. “Oh, Ernest”, she said and put her hands to her face. I loved her then, truly, as all things are loved truly for sometimes no more than the length of Spring.
It was Jacques, still alive, who I had first met at the Ritz and who had told me of The Resistance unit he commanded and the vengeance they took on the Gestapo, who devised a way to destroy the Zombies. It would take time to construct the massive gates, and to draw their number into confinement. I wished no part of it. I had seen a rancher ordered by the government to destroy an infected herd, and the face of the owner when the livestock were destroyed and his disjointed walk, drunk with grief, back to his ranch house.
The Cafe Florian was open, and I ordered a cafe-au-lait and considered the overlay of social change, like a map below a single light bulb where you see that the troops that were before in the mountains are now in wait across new marked lines, and your objectives have so changed that the small world you had inhabited is leveled and planed: the sexes were equal, and the desires of both were blurred so that the individual, and not their gender was of the first importance.
It was great change and I could not grasp it in this cafe where I had first written of a small basin and the fish so lovely as the rain poured a gift of living space. I journeyed by pencil to where I now knew I would never go again, to breakfast camp with bearers and Philip Percival. There was no longer bad country, or the spoor to follow or tracks of what I would no more shoot than Zombies, for both story could not be made into narrative.
I was alone. The cafe was deserted. I folded my notebook and put it with my pencil into my jacket. I would go to New York, and see the World Series. Then, perhaps I would read some new writers. I had delighted in breaking ice for shooting ducks and before I lifted my gun, reckoning the speed and height of the flock. I had never done them justice in the telling and I hoped that what I read would be true.
Charles Bane, Jr. is the author of three collections of poetry including the recent ” The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems ( Transcendent Zero Press, 2015 ) and “The Ascent Of Feminist Poetry”, as well as “I Meet Geronimo And Other Stories” ( Avignon Press, 2015) and ” Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall ( Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry Series for The Gutenberg Project.