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Traveling in Reality

By Sophie Rouméas 

Photography by Den Kuvalem

The chill rain of an autumn day

frames the splendor of the Tuileries;

the opulence of the Opera Garnier.

Among endless beguiling windows

of art, elegance, promise and grace,

infused with the faith of Notre-Dame

and the passion of a gospel concert

in the American Cathedral rue George V, 

I am filled with Paris.


At the bend of Rivoli,

a man on his knees, shirtless.

Without even one arm.

I try to guess his age.

He looks too young to

have survived World War II.

I wonder if he was

from Eastern Europe.

Maybe he was part of a gang.

What could leave a human

without arms?


I cry from the inside.

I walk by him slowly.

There is a man

helping him drink

some water.


How can he drink

when there is no one

to assist him?


I do not close my eyes

I do not

close my eyes. I do

not close my eyes.


I am late for my train,

but I cannot walk away.


How many times in my life

have I not taken the time

to see the hard reality?


I breathe a gentle smile,

grab all the euros

I have on me—

maybe enough for a few meals?


I meet his eyes.

I feel his dignity.

Can I participate in your day?


I want to

connect with him at the right level,

not make him feel less-than,

honor him.


Two bright,

bottomless eyes say



He returns to his water.


The caregiver is too busy to

catch my gaze—

an angel consumed with his task.


This moment won't leave me

even on the train home,

even miles away.


I beg myself to stay

in the emotions of my heart,

to continue to walk the days

of this world of contrasts.


This morning,

I prayed the Providence.


May each moment

bring him closer

to a softer day,

to leave this October soil,

and to reprogram his trajectory

to the beauty of life.


Will you pray with me?


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