The boats were coming in from Algeria,
bringing the exiled pied noir, 

like Camus himself, 
during the Revolution.

Bogey handed him a cigarette, which Camus 
would never refuse.  “Américain?”

“Oui,” tersely replied the hard boiled actor.
Camus smoked the Lucky Strike with pleasure.

The Mediterranean scribbled impressions in his carnet, 
some snippets of poetry, or the way 

a waitress held herself.
Albert lingered on the waitress.

Bogey drank efficiently, bourbon on the rocks,
looking around the room 

with the look of a calmly scenting coonhound 
ready for a chase.

He kept a sharp eye on the door, glad
he was facing it.

The ice in his drink never melted.
He was missing someone, 

pouring more straight Kentucky 
into the glass.

In broken Anglais, Albert confided in Bogey,
“You know The Stranger, L’Etranger, was you?  

Yes?”  It was die hard detective novels, films,
clipped, economical, distinctly American 

monotone in The Maltese Falcon, in Casablanca—
and maybe it wasn’t all Bogey, 

maybe it was Edward G. Robinson.  
“You flatter me Albert; save it for the waitress.”

Albert had a wife—not that it ever mattered.
Bogey had Bacall—but she wasn’t here at all.

Bogey poured himself another, there was a bottle,
and there was no tab for him at the Café Américain.

Albert never lived fast enough to die of tuberculosis, 
and he puffed like a gentlemanly, 

suave talking dragon, 
or a steam train cutting through

the mountain lowlands in his homeland, 
as he wrote furiously, copy editing the room.

The waitress, Joséphine, brought a plate
of ham, olives, and cheeses, and left a note

on the platter, and Camus went straight
to it like a Baptist reaching for fried chicken.

Bogey leered smiling, his hand going
for the cheese, stirring his drink with his middle

finger.   “Get away much, Albert?”  
Which in fact he had been doing all his life.

His second wife, Francine 
was on the verge of a third mental breakdown, 

on the heels of the fourth affair of their married life.
Camus had long since referred to her as ‘sister’

to allow her what he termed “erotic freedom”
but she took no honor in that.

That night, as he tore into the statuesque flesh 
of French fried chicken on the bay,

he heard Francine’s frantic voice say,
“Albert, you are no Parisian sophisticate,

you are both a child of the sun, 
and of the red, dusty slum.

Scarcity, mon chéri, is your landlord, 
always the luxurious cream

upon which you subsist.
You owe me everything, weasel 

I will not apologize!  You owe 
your legacy, you bastard—“

“Oui ma chère Joséphine?”

Come back to bed, 
come back to me.