La Banlieu

(I’ve not done this before. This is a reworking of an earlier post. Why not?)

 

La Banlieu

After a game of pool in a Mantes
café pas loin de l’église, you raised
your collar against the cold and asked
if I could lend you money. I always admired

your lean toughness, you in your Santiagos,
your Arab’s eyes, quick, dark and sensitive. I
gave you deux cents balles and saw your mouth
quiver at the corners as you held my hand

in both of yours. Boualem, this was the last
time I ever saw you and then that call
from your brother when I was in Frankfurt,
the image of you pendu

hanging in the silence and coldness
the walls could not hold back. What
of Marie and le petit Arthur gosse d’un epoch
that grew too heavy and tilted

like a ship the water deserted? I hope that he
makes his thé à menthe procedurally, your boy,
and envisages the father he hardly met
as a man who stood straight in crowds, the wire

in his veins tightly bound, a walker of the streets
whose heart was never hard. One night dans
la banlieue nord-est at a party I watched you stand
so comfortably entre les jeunes loubards out of

Renaud like someone who had known
the life of les HLM but escaped it. What’s a
life worth, how much does it cost to preserve so that
a boy might know his dad and ask, ‘T’étais là

when the riots broke that time at
Val-de-Fôret? I met you, Arthur, little one grown big
whose daddy never really emerged solid
from the shadows your eyes perceived back then.
He was a good man, your dad, bird of the broken

streets and the greying light, no money
in his pockets to settle or take flight.

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