The Gypsy Children in Orange
I have been warned. Guidebook
wisdom tells me how they wave dirty
scraps of unlined paper at me, words
I don’t understand. This is France.
Why here, in the south, a minor station,
where few trains pass all day?
Perhaps they are stranded, left,
on their way to Paris to join
those at the gates of Versailles,
hoarse child-singers on the Metro,
mother crouched with grubby offspring
on the steps of Montmarte, as night
shadows fall on the Sacre-Coueur.
Dark men peddling golden chains,
six-foot long folding postcards.
The impudent one comes for me again.
I knock the paper away, it flutters down,
she curses at me in French. I respond
with nonsense syllables, she laughs.
No more trains through here tonight.
I stay across the street in a three-star
hotel I can’t afford. Dinner? Only
deserted Sabbath streets. The proprietors
nod as the doors shut. There is nowhere
but their restaurant, a glass veranda
facing the stark railway station. I sit
under a Monet reproduction, away from
the glass so the children cannot see. I cut
the salty,white flesh with crossed silver
as they scream down the street to home.
……………………“It was Grace!”
I shout and stumble out of sleep gasping
human-warmed air, half out of bed,
thin stream of cold flowing over the sill,
flapping venetian blinds in a metallic clatter,
clock numbers neon green and wavering
as I move my jaw.
Chase the dream meaning, breathe fast,
think, run after the last visual snatches
slipping away like butterflies.
The poster of Rodin’s The Kiss illuminated
by a brief headlight in the windowpane,
a distant siren, rush of wind and tree shadows.
I talk in sleep. Roommates heard Russian
from my pillows, arguments and conversations
I can’t remember and wanted to tape.
I yelled on a camping trip to Rodney,
rose up shouting “Fall in!” from my bunk
but no one moved in metal cots creaking
and smoldering breath of the wood stove’s
fire dying, brilliant moonlight on the snow.
I know it was Grace, I know like a true prophet.
It was horrible, I was involved, and I know
it was Grace.
Once I grabbed you in sleep, maybe chasing Grace.
Silent and warm, you stole the quilts and sheets,
tight dark ringlets falling on your cheek. As I
crawl back, still chasing Grace, a soft hand moves
out of sleep and around me. A murmur, a kiss, and
……..I have rediscovered
© David J. Galloway
David J. Galloway is a writer and college professor of Russian. Born and raised in Maryland, for the past twenty-five years he has lived in upstate New York. His poetry and essays have most recently appeared in Manorborn and The Remembered Arts Journal.