Elegy to the Boulevard Voltaire

Janet Reed

                              “Écrasez l’Inf?me! If we believe absurdities, we commit atrocities.” Voltaire

Silver moonlight flickers through branches waltzing
with the breeze of a cooling November night.
A star or two two-steps behind the trees
and curtsies to the darkening street corners
as café lights rise in welcome to the people’s
symphony—the chatter of workers shedding
their clocks, tools stowed and files stacked,
the tremulous sighs of lovers rolling
fortune’s wheel Lady Luck in jolly roulette.
Over the babble, the deep bass of a band
riffs its grit and backs the swelling vibes
of the avenue with raucous joie de vivre,
a chemical soup du jour of color and creed,
class and culture simmering on the low heat
of liberté, egalité, and fraternité.
A young man like all the rest joins in
taking a seat at the crowded Café Voltaire,
placing an order for a croque monsieur,
perhaps, an Orangina, s’il vous plait.
In the yellowing haze of the terrace lights,
he sits in silence absorbing a laugh, a whisper,
a slap on the back, two beers
slammed in salute to soaring spirits. Later,
a survivor said he lightly rubbed his belly
like a man savoring his pleasure,
releasing his device in darkness
on a street named for tolerance,
the bête noire on the Boulevard Voltaire.

          





 

Janet Reed, is a 2017 and 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sow’s Ear Review, The Nassau Review, Laurel Review, I-70 Review, and others. She began writing knock-off Nancy Drew stories on wide-lined notebook paper at age 11 and now teaches writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri.

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