I stared at his monument in awe, flushed and a little woozy, thinking about how much this long-haired, leather-clad icon has meant to me over the years. The makeshift gate at Père Lachaise Cemetery wouldn’t let me get any nearer than 20 or so feet. At last I was here and yet this was the closest I’d ever get to him. It was a bittersweet moment that brought me near tears.
When I was young, Morrison’s voice was like a conduit of love, passion and intensity, and his sudden death only deepened my fixation with him. His poetry and lyricism spoke to me on many levels — I understood and felt his confusion and disillusionment with life, and found solace in poetry, too.
Guardian Angel Morrison
I had brought a copy of my poetry chapbook, Dear Jim, with me to the cemetery. The title poem is my tongue-in-cheek apology to Morrison for no longer having a major crush on him, but it also speaks to how our obsessions can guide us through the dark times in our lives. Written on Jim’s gravestone is KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY, which means “Faithful to his own spirit.” In ancient times, deities who distributed the fate and believed to be life changers were called daimones (daimons). The protector deity that lived inside a person from their birth till death, and took care of their personal evolution and prosperity was called “daimon eaytoy”.
In my poem, I call on Jim to be a guardian angel.
I really wanted to leave my book at his grave.
I walked all around the fence, looking for an opening to squeeze between or slip under. I even considered climbing over — it wasn’t that high. We weren’t alone in the cemetery, however, and breaking French law made me nervous. Recently, a woman was hauled into jail for pouring whiskey on his grave. I feared leaving my book might be considered littering.
Later that day, my husband and I took a guided tour of Père Lachaise. It was then I noticed many visitors had paid homage to the dead throughout the cemetery by leaving candles, flowers, stones, love notes, and lipstick kisses. People even set potatoes atop the tomb of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, promoter of the potato as a food source for humans in France. I could only assume the flowers and candles littering Jim’s grave had been snuck in at night, when no one else was there.
Definitely do it
Avi, our tour guide, was a friendly, personable artist from the States who’d been living in Paris for ten years. Feeling a kinship with him, I excitedly showed him the chapbook, hoping he might grant me permission to leave it.
His face lit up. “You should definitely do it.”
“It wouldn’t be littering?” I asked. Avi shook his head and assured me it would be fine. Together, we walked up to the fence.
“Just toss it,” he said. “I’ll be waiting over here.” He smiled as he backed away, as if to say I was on my own.
My heart was pounding. I was surrounded by other people. I felt conspicuous, like a rabid fan, still the awkward teenage girl whose kohl-lined, bloodshot eyes saw Jim’s face in every Rorschach blot, who believed she alone could light his fire.
I told myself I had to do this. It was my way of paying homage, and I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t try. At that moment, I didn’t care what anyone else thought.
Hoping for the best, I flung it. Voila! The book landed in the shade of a large monument, face up, close enough to Morrison’s grave for onlookers to know its intentions. Avi smiled hugely when he saw it, and said, “That’s perfect. People can see the cover!”
And there it will stay. Maybe another fan who climbs the fence at night to leave flowers for Jim will move it closer. If not, that’s fine, too. The book will turn to dust, as everything and everyone we love eventually does. We will be remembered for our gestures, the things we leave behind, the love and dreams we share.
Au revoir, Jim. Till next time…
Interested in reading more about Jim Morrison?
My post on Jim’s poetry All These Monstrous Words: Jim Morrison, Again
Read LINDA+ JIM: Interview with Author/Artist/Jim Morrison fan Linda K. Sienkiewicz by Elizabeth Searle.
My take on the documentary, When You’re Strange, about the Doors.
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s powerful and richly detailed debut novel is at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River, and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters