Le Mendicant


Photo: flicker

Photo: flicker

Le Mendicant
A Narrative Poem

I make my way slowly toward la Gare du Nord, pass la Rue Phillipe de Girard. I lumber along at a slow pace. The ache in my feet shoots up my legs. The night was cold last night and us seventy-something’s have poor circulation, especially when we sleep in alleys.

At the entry to la Boulangerie, I pause, take in a deep breath and dream. The smell of bread, just coming out of the oven, fills me with pain. A young woman, dressed in a tweed business suit, three-piece, and three-inch heels, exits. She turns abruptly and walks hurriedly away from me. The scent of the baguette lingers like an expensive perfume. Its rough texture and golden color remind me of better days. Today I haven’t a sou in the pocket of my tattered jacket.

When I reach the station, I take my seat on the rough concrete of the steps leading to departures. The chill penetrates, creeps up my spine. As I extend my callused hand, I know what they think, but they don’t know my story. It hurts to look into their eyes and see them avert their own in embarrassment as they rush by. A few drop a coin or two, not enough for a loaf.

Counting them at the end of an hour, I think I may have enough for a small, day-old roll and a cup of black coffee. I stand, stomp my feet in hopes of regaining some sensation, and straighten my old back a bit at a time. Grasping the railing, I climb back to street level and make my way back to the bakery.

Maybe someday, someone will stop to listen and offer me the bread of understanding.

Written in narrative poetry, from a first person perspective, this is a fictional collage from a few images that linger with me from the time I lived in Paris. The reality is true world-wide.

For dVerse Poetics. The prompt is Bread and the pub opens Tuesday 3:00 PM EST. Hope to see you there!

 

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27 thoughts on “Le Mendicant

  1. The “bread of understanding”…such a wonderful term. I would have bought this poor man the biggest loaf of bread in the bakery. It saddens me how so many misjudge the homeless.

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  2. kaykuala h says:

    Many with compassion to be aware of those around us. But there are others taking the easy way out not seeing them! Great lines Victoria!

    Hank

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  3. Lydia says:

    I love your narrative poem, probably the best I have read. How I long to see Paris and this glimpse strengthens that desire. (If you do not follow the blog Paris Daily Photo I recommend taking a look!) Have a special holiday season, Victoria.

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  4. I feel for the homeless as I read your post. In the Scandinavian countries, homelessness should not occur, really. There is governmental support to every one out of job. But here are many beggars from east European countries. So the question how wealth is distributed is forcing itself upon us.

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  5. grapeling says:

    I’m reminded that “du pain” is the Fr word for bread… An unwavering glimpse, neither unsympathetic nor pathos-laden ~

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  6. Victoria, you tied the two types of bread together so well and in such a way as to engage not only our sense but our hearts. I love the scent of the baguette lingering like an expensive perfume and, to my mind at least, to be preferred. I admit to being conflicted about helping beggars, for a variety of reasons. You could spend all your money in a few short blocks in some cities, yet there are those who chose to live that way, who refuse to go into a shelter, who value their freedom, although we may look at it differently. You have my mind going now, but my heart as well.

    janet

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  7. Madhura says:

    Very touching narrative, Victoria!

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  8. Prajakta says:

    This is so deep and thought-provoking Victoria! I think you have raised a really great voice here which millions can relate with. The bread with the golden crust and the bread of understanding has been done very beautifully!

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  9. Grace says:

    How very touching Victoria to write from the eyes and soul of the beggar ~ I don’t want to judge them when I do see them as I haven’t walked in their shoes ~

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  10. I love this narrative poem. So easy it is to turn a blind eye to those that need us most. Cheers!

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  11. stop to listen and offer me the bread of understanding… we need both truly.

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  12. wolfsrosebud says:

    there is no bread quite like that made in France

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  13. Joseph Hesch says:

    I’ve been wandering around listening to voices I haven’t heard in a long time and I came to hear yours. You never disappoint, dear Victoria. Your prose is as evocative as your verse. Stunning work.

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  14. MarinaSofia says:

    So easy to ignore, to find ways to justify one’s willingness to look away. A moving, eloquent prose-poem.

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  15. How you make me feel the hunger in the smell of fresh baked bread when one has not a penny to buy some. Excellent write!

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  16. billgncs says:

    a fine metaphor – this was not a low-carb poem 🙂

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  17. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Powerfully, passionately put forward, your prose is so vivid, so meticulous, so readable, your eye misses nothing, your heart is the narrator within the voice of the beggar. Puts me in mind of the age old parable of LES MISERABLES, how the theft of one loaf of bread changed history.

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  18. claudia says:

    the bread of understanding… yes… i wish we would take the time to share it with him… next time when i see a homeless i will ask him if i can get him some fresh baked bread…

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  19. A touching narrative. Telling our stories is one of the hardest things to do, we usually cover that fear with ignorance, a cold shoulder…. Telling it from the beggar’s POV was ACE!

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  20. Mother Hen says:

    I would have bought him a loaf of bread…I enjoyed reading this!

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  21. brian miller says:

    the bread of understanding is messy…it requires us to be willing to let our stories mingle with those of another….and of course people always have reasons….they are busy, of are afraid…or….and yet still someone is left out…it has always been this way…..and will be, until we change it….

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  22. What a vivid picture.. and how we never listen to the story of the beggars.. they have a knowledge that we don’t have, and how strong the smell of bread can seem. To me this touch the heart especially as we have so many beggars nowadays.. many coming from poorer parts of Europe, and how many that seem to become hostile against the poor…

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  23. scillagrace says:

    Coincidentally, I was reading George Orwell “Down and Out in Paris and London” between cycles at the Laundromat today. In 1933, he wrote that the hardest thing about poverty was lying. I would imagine it would be a relief to tell someone the truth…tell the story, feast on “the bread of understanding”. Nice line!

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  24. Gabriella says:

    Being told from the beggar’s point of view makes your poem all the stronger, Victoria. “Everest Designs Bitterroot’ – I like the note of mystery you introduced and wondered whether your beggar is a mendicant or just a beggar.

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  25. Mary says:

    A vivid depiction, Victoria. It must be so difficult to spend the day in search of / yearning for both bread for the body and the bread of understanding.

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