FIXING BAYONNE (© Words by Paul F. Cowlan)

We sit beneath the arcades,
drinking black chocolate, cream and cinnamon,
loosening our belts for the Spanish Jews
who fled here with their New World titbits
- cocoa, ground maize and peppers -
to devise a sin of scalding calories
so esculent that even bayonets give ground to it.

After the second cup
the world itself is tinctured with burnt umber,
touron nougat, pine nuts and marzipan.
A passing negress is dark satin folded into porcelain,
teeth white as almonds.

Hansel and Gretel would be fazed
by toothsome streets of comestible architecture,
cozeners wheedling under every gable.
The blank tympanum of the cathedral is dressed gingerbread,
and even the rivers are crème de menthe and walnut,
bridged by chartreuse lions and an inevitable purge of traffic.

This is the ultimate chocolatier,
where the confluent waters were always spoiled for choice.
A bed of fudge? A bed of coffee?
Dithering between courses until King Louis called his engineers
and put a stop to the tergiversation.

Out in the hills butterflies flirt;
orange-peel and russet, carib and white peppermint,
wafting the good news windward.
"Eat. Drink. For tomorrow never comes."

Concerning Bayonne’s portion on the Fatal Day there’s no tradition,
though it isn’t hard to guess.
A pot-bellied dragon,
politically incorrect and non-vegan,
will devour the city; cloister, column and cornice,
mumbling up every crisp biscuit-brick and soft-centred creamery,
to burp off skyward with a dentifrice of caramel,
sweet-talking the Wrathful Judge into exemption for all Jews and Indios,
free remission of sins,
and a preferential paradise
where chocolate shall be declared ‘Ineffable,’
and all Bayonne’s confectioners be instantly canonized.