The Carrie Allen McCray Prize
Debra A. Daniel
The Homeless Men of Paris and Their Cats
One of them, amber-eyed and wiry
wears a leash and collar knotted together
from a tatter of rope. It poses upright
in the cart among the man’s other ownings.
The cat does not beg, nor does the man.
They simply linger through daylight
here in the park beneath the tower
where tourists queue for a ride to the top.
Another man crouching on a curb feeds
his gray cat from a tin of tuna. A bit for the cat.
A bit for himself. For the cat, a bit more.
The man speaks mellifluous French.
The purr of his voice soothes the cat.
which does not flinch at the racket of traffic
or the smothering mash of humanity.
There and here and there again,
the homeless men of Paris and their cats
paint themselves into the City of Lights,
and though each pair appears more rumpled
than the last, not one seems worried or hurries
to buy an umbrella on this cloudy April afternoon
with that romantic Paris rain beginning to fall.