'Je m'appelle Jean-Louis.
I am without work,
without money, I am all alone in the world.'
The train rattles on,
around a curve bodies sway and hit
each other, coats flung open.
We stare impassively ahead,
ignoring Jean-Louis in grubby jacket,
'So I'm appealing to you all
to give me something extra so I
can get on in the world.'
We stare impassively ahead.
I do the same after a day and a half in Paris.
My face reflected in glass that's black against
the pitch dark tunnels, as blank and bored as the rest.
'Thank you all for listening to me.'
Down the coach he holds out his hand,
there's silence as he gets to the end
with his closed fist, stands at the door,
waiting for the next stop.
We get off together,
and while I'm confronted by the bleeding rash
of another beggar's face stretched on a bench,
Jean-Louis gets onto the next coach,
and in the same even unexpectant tone,
he begins:'Je m'appelle Jean-Louis...'
(Published in A life stripped of illusions)