Then came a tall and stately woman on the famous boulevard—
Since childhood I've been trying to match that word
with its owner and now I have. An irony maybe—
she was veiled. A black silk scarf
encircling her head that also only served
more perfectly to frame her high cheek bones,
her Parisian model’s curvature, and her royal, ebony eyes.
What I’m saying is she was far too much for me
at any age, of course. But still,
we passed in streams of good fortune,
and it was she who stared me down—
much to my surprise. And yes,
it was in that wholly non-Islamic way.
And I said only what I always say these days
to such long-wanted invitations:
Darling, I’ve got nothing to give you
but a corpse, a handshake, and a hard time.
And I said this, through my now-kinder pauper’s eyes.
And we fused in mind for a moment,
like people of the same lost tribe
with difference falling away from us
in a kind of understanding, below the great shadow
of the all-diminishing Arc de Triomphe.
And she smiled gingerly.
And took it all in stride.
And strode on.