Head down, I had just turned the corner from Rue Marchetonto onto Route de Castelsarrasin with MIKA’s “Lollipop” blaring in my ears when I saw the blood.
I stopped, nearly stumbling, and glanced ahead. Against the morning glaring sun the rest of our group continued up the hill, toward the clock tower. I looked back down where, a few steps later, the dark red spots splattered against the ancient rock wall, curving up the hill toward the heart of Auvillar. The trail continued, weaving from the wall on my left onto the curb on my right until, almost at the next corner, it exploded in a violent bloom on the wall of a corner house.
I plucked the earbud out and squinted up at the receding backs of the other poets, frowned at the wall. Three white tissues heavy with drying blood led me to the corner of the street, where another firework explosion of blood, brighter red here, stained the street and trailed in droplets to the door of the corner house.
Sunlight hot and insistent in my hair, I nudged another tissue, this one soaked nearly brown and heavy in the gutter, with the toe of my flip flop. Glancing up, I saw John had paused, his profile sharp against the sky a blue only to be found in Southern France, waiting for me. He lifted his hand, and I tripped on up the hill.
In our poetry workshop that day I didn't write about blood, but about my thoughts sifting on the breeze along the banks of the Garonne, Drifting white puffs that catch in window screens across the French countryside:
"Walking to the water"
At first I feared my thoughts had fled –
white puffs on air
wafting over water.
Glancing about, I saw my dreams,
these white floating sifting things,
and fought the urge to catch them
pluck them off the breeze,
this need to gather
my ideas of air.
But no, Darren says,
it’s cottonwood seed.
French farmers cut it down,
it gets caught in screens,
angers their wives.
I worried my thoughts would weave
into window screens
splayed for a French wife
to frown at and complain
My dreams and ideas
spun out cotton
for the world to run through their fingers.