I watched the splendid Notre Dame Cathedral as it burned.
I watched it from America as it was dying fast
Without a chance for me to say to anyone concerned
That I have always treasured emblems of the distant past.
The River Seine seemed dark with grief, though lit by blazing fire;
And I was grieving with the Seine; the world; and Paris, France.
The specter was so tragic and the consequence so dire,
It seemed to me there couldn’t be a grimmer circumstance.
I felt my silent mind had now begun to speak to me
Of things I haven’t thought about since youth and college tests,
Like ancient art and treasured relics of antiquity,
And architecture like the great cathedral manifests.
I’d been to Paris years ago and saw the Eiffel tower.
I saw the Louvre museum and the sculptures by Rodin.
I saw the great cathedral but I didn’t have an hour
To go inside, and so a tour became a future plan.
I didn’t know what would be lost if flames engulfed it all.
I just knew Buonaparte had used it for his coronation;
And I remember, decades back, a mass for Charles De Gaulle.
I’d heard it was the site, when Nazi’s left, of celebration.
I knew that it was featured in the Victor Hugo book
About a homely man who rang the huge cathedral bells.
But I had never walked inside to really get a look.
I just imagined grandeur as the book-born legend tells.
I knew the Notre Dame Cathedral hosted history,
And since medieval times it’s been the pride of France’s realm;
But still my feelings as it burned remained a mystery.
I really didn’t know enough to be so overwhelmed.
It burned for fifteen hours as the firemen beat back Hell,
And I looked up the story of the place as it was blazing.
Its history was long and far too rich for me to tell,
And I regretted never knowing stories so amazing.
I knew about the edifice before the days of Truman
From picture books I loved to look at when I was a kid.
I never realized the church’s guardians were human,
And they could let a major fire get started like it did.
Those relics of Christianity and artwork that you see,
And architecture that has intellectual appeal
Were not preserved for picture books or showings on TV.
They should be seen at Notre Dame Cathedral, close and real.
When you’re in Paris, France, you always think that you’ll return.
I must have thought I’d always have the money for the trip,
And someone to go with me who would also want to learn.
I now see that I’m low on money, health and scholarship.
I guess I always thought the great cathedral would be waiting
And that my legs would always welcome any walking tour.
And I would find a flight across the world invigorating,
My vision would be better, and my med appointments fewer.
I now regret not going in and quickly walking through it.
I have to tour the edifice somehow before I die.
You must do what you need to do as soon as you can do it.
Old artifacts can be preserved, but not so you and I.