They are different in every city.
In Paris the gypsy women sit as if in prayer
their hand locked, their backs bent, a ragged Buddha,
the bowl placed a foot away from them right in the flow
of traffic so you have to step around it.
Or if you leave money, you have to be careful,
the bowl is tiny. You must lean down close to them,
to get the little euro coins to land in it with a loud clink.
They have signs. But not like the signs in America.
They do not ask for beer. Or for a ticket out of New York City.
They simply say, J’ai faim.
On the Champs Elysees a gypsy girl rubs her belly
which she has pushed out. She tells me in French she is pregnant
and homeless. She begs for money.
Another girl up the block has the same story.
I tell her I don’t speak French and move along.
I live in cities. I have always lived in cities.
But those are the women,
the men, carry dogs. Neatly groomed puppies that romp
around the sewer caps at the Pont Neuf.
It is clever. If you do not want to give to them,
surely you wouldn’t let a puppy starve.
I wonder aloud where they get these dogs.
It is different in every city. Some have stories,
some are stoic, some beg, some entertain, some threaten
But then we rounded the corner and there he was.
He had no bowl. He had no sign.
He had no story.
He sat on the sidewalk, away from the tourist sections.
He had his back against the car.
His knees tucked in.
He had only two hands.
And they clung to the 6 year old boy in his lap
as if to stop them both from spinning off the very earth.
You say to me, “That was a child.”
and I nod because I have no more words.
13 hours ago