Poetry | January 06, 2022


I’d walk downhill, bayward, down to the French café where I worked in a country that wasn’t mine. The air had the chill clarity of the shop windows a few men were washing in their white suits and caps—the same men each day; I waved—as white gulls carved roundy shapes and calls into the blue overhead and burly kegs rolled loud down the cobblestones with alarming force and buoyancy, barely under control, until they were guided with sudden grace down into a pub’s dark cellar. On that morning, which is many mornings that shine in time as one, I too arrived, slowed by heat, dense smells, Thierry’s grouchy gaze as he wound the kitchen like a clock. I tied on an apron fresh from the laundry sack and tried to tamp my joy, or let it find a narrower tributary (comradely co-misery) that Thierry wouldn’t mind. Later, others would join us: More waitresses. The window washers, done for the day, flirting and ordering heavy English breakfasts as they tipped their chairs back like boys I remembered from school. Lunchtime tourists squinting and turning their heads like birds whose gazes I’d try not to meet for fear of recognition that I was like them and didn’t belong. I wanted to feel at home and also entirely free. I almost managed it. The scene rustles its subtle senses, itself torn free, a page blowing wildly down the thoroughfare, then lifting for a life-long moment into the sky over the bay.

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