They were mostly tall, thin, and dark skinned like the softest black velvet. Their clothes hung on them. Their feet in flip-flops covered with dust. Yet their voices were strong, offering their wares in accented English – mini Eiffel towers, larger Eiffel towers, ones that light up as if it were covered with fireflies, ones that were staid. Their bodies seemed strong, carrying large sacks of these trinkets to different parts of the park. The odor of their sweat was strong, evidence of their hard work in the heat.
They stood out among the tourists – they were there working, laboring under the sun – while we were there for fun, our choice to stand in lines under the sun.
Maybe they arrived in this city with a degree or some other skills; definitely they arrived with hope. Yet their labor in the City of Lights seemed to diminish the light in their own eyes.
Summer’s salty sweat
Seasons the immigrant’s work
Hope masks bitterness
This haibun was inspired by two prompts: Frank at D’Verse for Haibun Monday requested a Haibun inspired by labor, workers in honor of Labor Day and Jamie at The Poet by Day Wednesday Writing Prompt requested poems inspired by a city. (Responses to Jamie’s Prompt can be found here.)
When we visited Paris this summer, I was surprised by how much the area around the Eiffel Tower has changed. The area was surrounded by a see-through barrier. You had to go through security before you could even get close to the tower. This was much different than when I visited the tower in early 2001.
I also noticed the men (they were all men) who were clearly immigrants to Paris selling souvenirs. I don’t remember them on my last trip there. But it made me wonder about them, their stories, if they were selling souvenirs of their own accord, if they had families, if they had ever gone up to the top of the tower they were selling miniatures of.
I always wonder if workers who sell from blankets on street corners might be trafficking victims and that by buying these wares, I am complicit in this modern day slavery. I know these men were working hard – it was evident in their hands and feet, their eyes. When is this type of labor honored?
©️ iido 2019