The Man on Boulevard Saint-Martin

I saw him
Live, I saw that man live.
In the hand he had just rinsed
He held a brown plastic comb.
He placed his right hand on his hair
And started combing it carefully
One side, then the other.
He left the comb on his rug,
And smoothed his hair.
He sat there all day, on the pavement
He is, I swear, the only living man
On Boulevard Saint Martin.

I want

I want the fridge, full,
I want the sea, I want the mountains, I want peace
I want trees, breezes, birds,
I want a view, the horizon
The sun,
I want outings, I want friendships
I want those discoveries
You keep to yourself
I want new socks
Waterproof shoes
Ironed sheets
And to be able to answer “I’m fine”
I want to walk through your super rich ghetto
Believe it isn’t all about summer
And that you haven’t hired that security regiment
To guard the lawn you water three times a day.
I want to think about something other than paying the bills
I want to dream my way through your opulent days and nights
I want work and I want holidays
I want love and I want children.
Oh ! I also want that future,
The one you’ve already bought for yourself
I want you to make room for me
You the plunderer, robber, the selfish criminal
I want you to understand
Before it’s too late.

At the break of day

I heard the sound of water running off concrete
And took it for a spring
Took it for a brook I would have had to climb
Chase and stumble for
Fall onto the sweet wet grass.

I picked myself up from the pavement,
My bones broken, my dream unscathed.


Seventy degrees on the tarmac
And just about 35 degrees inside these walls
I closed the shutters.
How many empty pools in fancy neighborhoods ?
Sixty kilometres to the beach
A road flanked by trees
And two benches in the sun.
Who stole the shade from my city ?


I have the stretching memory
Of a sandbank on the horizon
Was it I
Or another who sailed across the Oceans?
I’ve lost the plot
To my own story.
My skin is scaly from so much salt
And my voice is cracking
But I pretend
To stay afloat.

In between

I don’t know
Whether I’m adrift
Or washing up
Against the narrow
Vagrant streets
Of an ageing world.


My endless battle
Born from eternal lust
That ecstasy
Of all potentialities
And of all bodies.
Our fates


I never got to know
Nor learnt the link
To your compassion.
Yet you sang loud
And I heard nothing

That night in Bordeaux

May it never dry up
And run thin all the way down
That night
And tumble
From the wine press to unreason
From rhythm to eruption
May it never end.

How far is the sea ?

How far is the sea ?
My door opened with the tides
And I gazed into the distance
At the same horizon and its dry land.
My door opened with the tides
And I stepped down to the jetty.
The sea breeze seemed then to devour me.
Must we assume it is still there?
Is that sea still there – is it still?
Who if not you can open my doors
And lead me into the future ?

How far is the sea ?

The port

All my light
On the red horizon
I sweep away all waves,
All obstacles, your course.
Uncertain captain of your ship
You wonder where to moor.
You are not mistaken
This is the harbour.

By day and by night

Night has forgotten me
Yet here I am still
Standing amidst the fallen walls
Of an intractable industry.

Fun, risk and pleasure

No longer can I stand the silence
I want the roar of drums
The screeching of thighs
Sweat reaching even my frostiest of toes,
Glitter on my eyelashes until I can’t blink
I want to see crowds
Strangers I already love swinging their hips
Strangers I already love
Since we have all chosen fun
Risk, and pleasure.

Two euros for dinner

She had sardines for dinner
One euro and 99 cents
A bargain
Phosphorous and Vitamin D
A bargain
Everything your body needs to be healthy
And I sit down to a meal
Of lamb chops
She cut the rosemary
And tossed it into the pan
Lamb is more expensive
She gives it to her guests.

She likes the sardines in their tin
That she opens with a familiar tug
She only has two euros for dinner.

Nothing to prove

If my skin is no longer taut
If my back is curved from toil
And sleeplessness
If I forget to remove a blackhead on my nose because my sight is blurred
If my poorly laced shoes flop like sandals
If grey overruns black in my hair
And slowness supplants passion
If my skin no longer sees the sun
If I have lived day to day without heeding time
If today, suddenly, I find I am sixty,
–      I don’t regret a thing.

Poems translated by Shannon Delorme.

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