The Man Who Fell in Sartre’s Grave – by Clint Margrave


On the day they buried Jean-Paul Sartre,
a young man fell
shortly before they lowered the coffin.

20,000 people stood watching
in Montparnasse cemetery,
where close-by Baudelaire
lay next to his hated stepfather.

No one ever said what happened after.
If someone in the massive crowd
of mourners offered a hand.
If Simone herself stood up from
the chair they’d placed at the foot
of the plot and reached in.

I like to imagine him somewhere now
briefly removing the pipe from his mouth
to relay this story yet again
to his adult kids,
or his philosophy class,
or his latest mistress.

A topic of conversation
at parties among intellectuals
and friends. A point of
introduction. This is Guillaume
or Jean-Luc or Christophe.
“He fell in Sartre’s grave.”

I like to imagine he learned something
from the man he almost replaced,
and pulled himself up
by his own free will.




Clint Margrave is the author of Salute the Wreckage (2016) and The Early Death of Men (2012), both published by NYQ Books. His work has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, as well as in New York Quarterly, Rattle, Cimarron Review, Verse Daily, The American Journal of Poetry, Word Riot, and Ambit (UK), among others. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

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