by John Freeman

That summer on Rue du Bac
we slept for three days, then
woke one afternoon and walked
to the park, sat on a bench,
and searched the paper for a movie,
any movie, there was nothing to say,
the light too bright, the day too long,
we had to erase both. I didn’t dare
touch you, there, on your chest,
where she had slept, a baby
much smaller than her pain, and you
grabbed my arm, let it go, each time
we passed someone sleeping rough,
there were so many of them, it was warm
that summer, hot even in the cinemas,
where the images flickered by and
I nearly forgot her shape on your chest
and I kept wondering if you occasionally
imagined my brother with his pack and his
dreadlocks, his searching eye
and darting walk, if you emerged like me from
the afternoon’s erasure and found yourself
rising into the daylight toward a stranger,
carrying a baby turned forward like a prize,
or a man in those tatters,
who looked a little like him, as so many
Parisians did that summer, I had to assume
it was a kind of phantom of shame, if you
rushed toward them and then averted
your eyes, as if all the body didn’t want
to do was rush toward pain.

Published on April 9, 2020