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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 1, March 2014

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Ken Jones
Ceredigion, Wales


An Existential Encounter

It happened on one of those bright French trains which seem to have been designed to lift the heart, with that touch of art deco about them. Taking a window seat on the scenic side, at first I hardly noticed her. And then it struck me . . . How strange, that plastic ID tag, worn as it were a brooch. Proclaiming to the world the personnel manager of a care home somewhere in Metz.

With a vehement biro
she attacks the work schedule
query - delete - correct

She has many other toys, but each offers her only a few minutes of distraction. "Le Monde" is glanced and soon dismissed. She plays with her iPhone a little longer, before thrusting it back into what appears to be a Vuitton handbag. Finally, with fierce concentration, she attacks the pages of a novel, pauses, and with a little sigh lifts her eyes to our window. But with a trapped, inward gaze, oblivious to the splendid scenery flying past. And, it seems, oblivious to her fellow-passenger on the other side of a narrow table.

Out of the corner of my eye
blurring the sunshine
a solitary tear

And yet she clothes and presents herself without the dowdy indifference one might expect. There is an erotic stylishness about her, from the expensive French twist hair-do down to the high-heeled court shoes. And the black skirt is rather short for une femme d'une certaine age . . . No detail is neglected, from the dingle-dangle earrings to the ornate finger nails.

At last the train slows. She gathers together her things. With a strangely chaste gesture, she wraps her shawl around her. I hazard a faint smile. She responds with a smile of sunshine through dark clouds. In a soft voice: "Monsieur, c'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?"

Open mouthed I watch her leave, to the announcement "Mesdames, messieurs, en quelques instants nous nous arriverons . . ."

Love and dread
thinly spread
to spice the day

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