A L’Inconnue 2018
With money borrowed from my Arabian ex-girlfriend,
I feasted on croissants, black coffee, and Gauloises
At 7 a.m.
In the sunlight alone and warm,
And wished for a single currency.
We had travelled a long time;
Gare du Nord,
A labyrinth of connections,
Using sleeper trains as free hotels,
Mile after mile of strange country.
We were a part of the same continent.
That same day, after Avignon,
And croissants, and coffee, and Gauloises,
We found Nîmes,
The amphitheatre full of Norwegian music,
Stood outside to listen to a-ha,
Until they stopped,
And pretended to be them,
Hot and brown,
We wandered into a cheap restaurant
And watched Europe around us,
With a few token Americans
And lobster-red English boys who didn’t understand
I saw her then,
A dark head of hair, laughing,
Tied to a wheelchair
And happy. Beautiful.
I wrote a poem in French on the paper menu,
A L’Inconnue, and gave it to her
When we left.
No social media in those days,
Nor mobile phones,
And no presence of mind to even leave her my address.
She was older than me anyway.
It never would have worked.
What would she make of this?
This nation tearing itself away from its root,
This British nation of cross-breds
Tearing itself apart for nothing?
What would she make
Of poets becoming warriors?