MODERN AMERICAN GYPSY: BY DAVID MCWANE PAGES 106-115 – Denmark to Germany through Belgium heading to France

Each day a new section of David McWane’s Modern American Gypsy will be posted. Todays stories start in Denmark then Germany through Belgium heading to France


David McWane




The first thing I noticed leaning against the Sprinter in the center of Copenhagen was all the beautiful woman.  Just beautiful.  Lovely.  Hair flowing behind them as they road their Wicked Witch of the West bicycles, with perfect posture.   I, the paralyzed American, hadn’t a clue what to do about them.  How do you choice a woman to speak to, when each one of them would tragically twist your tongue?  All us men stood and stared; smiled and exhaled.

“Oh right non of you lot have been to Copenhagen yah?  The woman are fucking brilliant here.  Top.  Read that ah, Denmark is the happiest country of them all,” said Dale as he came around the Springer.

“I heard that too,” I said.

“Great beer, great beer.  And smoke,” Dale continued.

“Heard that too,” I said again.

“Yah s’proper.  Yah they do it right here.  They know what it’s made of.  Oh and they got this market right, that has just troughs and troughs of smoke.  You’ve never seen anything like it.  The squatters took a whole block, made this mental market mate.  We’ll go for sure.”

And we did.

We sat with local bottled beer, on a stone wall, past the Green Goblin mural and soaked it all in.  We watched the market play out, saw the troughs of smoke and continued to breathed in deep the woman that were too pretty for us to talk to.

That night we were put up in a small empty apartment, over looking downtown.   It was a quite weeknight.  The wet streets sizzled from beautiful black bicycles.  We played cards, drank beer and coffee, ate cheese with meats and took turns toasting bread.  Denmark eased us.  I thought of Arend; he was right.



Germany through Belgium heading to France



“McWane, David!  McWane, David!”, shouted the border patrol officer.

I was nudged awake by three sleeping men.  We were at a border crossing, Germany to Belgium.

“Dave, mate wake up, this officer has a question about your passport,” Dale said.

I ain’t pretty in the morning, I ain’t nice neither, I ain’t nothing but annoyed, and mean, angry even.  If you are on fire, I’ll help yah, but if you ain’t, help yourself.

“McWane, David.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Why is your passport like this?”  The border patrol man began splitting the cover of my passport in two, ripping the cover off.

“God, c’mon, ‘s because your ripping it in half, Jesus Christ.” Then I went back to sleep and know nothing else.




except one pretty girl


“thank god we’ve made it,”

dale said, “I was losing my mind there,

going daff.”

us nine liminal men were

finished with

a ten hour drive

through east Germany

through the hopeless night

finally to end the drive

at the only open hotel in Belgium

our bodies were stiff

but our souls we’re hungry

joy from not being in the sprinter

made us parade about

we had a fresh air about us and

while unpacking the luggage

we caught word

that the Belgian hotel

had an open courtyard

and a full bar

and it was still open

we unpacked with urgency,

like that of a midnight swimmer,

submerged in a cold New England lake,

with a direct line of vision

on simply

getting the hell out

it smelled of mud and freshly lit cigarettes

it smelled of friends and the hope of laughter

the night’s lodging looked to be

an old elementary school,

now converted to a quirky hotel

us men,

all sporting big duffle bags slung around our shoulders

and healthy 22oz German beers in our hands

exhausted, yet exuberant 

opened the front doors

and were finally home

once again

somewhere we knew not


little ragamuffins and hooligans roamed

these school’s halls many years before

and now

grown ones do


we tossed our bags in our bunkhouse

plopped on our choice mattresses

the six bunks were bunked three high,

right up to the ceiling

half of us headed to the shower room

while the rest of us unpacked,

drank and laughed together

about nonsense

and about women

once the washed men were sorted

they met the waiting men in the hallway

and together we headed to the courtyard


a gift for us all

we found a party that was already in full crescendo

everyone dressed to the nines

men in suits that actually fit

and women in dresses that made them feel ten years younger

if it wasn’t a wedding reception

it was some sort of family reunion

I could tell that, because the

grandmothers and grandfathers




twirling and kissing


everyone cheered our entrance

as we walked through the orange bowed doorway

as if we were the matadors of the night

one of us was led by an older man at the party

to dance with a smiling slender woman in her early forties

she looked like a snake

as much as

she looked like a cat

she was long and sexy

with eyebrows that lifted sharp in the back


with bang-snap hips

and pillow case lips


we were all alive here


the music that played kept the earth on fire

it was a cross between gypsy music and, well,

mixed with nothing

it was just gypsy music









eyes wide with honest drunk smiles

tongues licking canines

lips puckered to kiss anyone that’d accept

women who looked over shoulders,

with hands on hips

– their best angle for the men to see

for us men

it was this excursion’s

first oasis


the party was in their thirties and up

except one pretty girl

who sat in a beautiful blue flowered dress

at a small table,

under a large yellow umbrella

beside an adolescent tree

looking bored, but not tired

she held a glass of ice

and twirled it around


a thin red straw 


us men were old enough not to mind

the ages of the other party

but she was around eighteen years old

so she couldn’t yet relate


alone, she sat

across the courtyard

across the firecracker dance floor

looking at us

wanting an escape

wanting fun

wanting a conversation with the matadors

the foreigners

the Americans

the young men

that weren’t

from around town


but she wasn’t allowed to leave her table

or by any chance walk to our side of the courtyard

you could tell that,

after her father walked over to her

pointed at us and brought her

a new soda


us slightly doolally men with

large beers

loud laughter

now dizzy dancing

with gypsy mothers and grandmothers cackling

danced as the music continued to burn the earth

and the earth burned our feet

and our souls cooled from the release


I noticed, as my drunk and me

twirled the women

and belly laughed with the men

that the young girl

would smile at times and laugh at times

changing her seated position

by crossing one leg over the other

and over again

she sat longingly



in a blue flowered dress,

under a yellow umbrella

at a small table

beside an adolescent tree

twirling ice

with a thin red straw

waiting for it to be all done

or just waiting

to grow up





The Sprinter seemed to be driving fine, but when we reached the center of Paris and stopped at the a red light – it died.  All seven of us men had to push the massive vehicle eight blocks to a friend Yul’s house.  The French loved the scene.  Not in a sarcastic way either; the fumbling of seven men with a mission brought them true smiles.  They put thumbs in the air, cheered and would even jump in adding to the muscle when there was an incline.  The English man smoking and steering, the Americans razzing and pushing and the French cheering and helping.  It must have made one of the gods happy, for outside Yul’s house was an open parking spot.

Yul and his love Benedicte greeted us with wine, olives, bread, cheese and meats. We dined on the balcony.  We drank until sunset.  The sun left us with different shades of orange.  And yellows.  Then the blues and purples climbed up to the Paris night.  The van would be hard to sort out, but we called a garage that would take a look at it in the morning.  Luckily we had a day off the next morning, so tonight’s work shift was over. Desperate men got to wash some spoiled cloths.  Yul and his love brought us to La Butte Aveyronnaise, a small restaurant with a friendly staff.  We drank, we ate; we love Yul; we love his love.  The wine kept coming and there was more food then us all could eat.  The waitress thought us beggarly to ask to box the untouched meats and smashed/mashed potatoes called: Aligot.  And she was right.  Us men must be savvy; prideful we are, but royalty we are not.  The box will feed us all in the morning and keep us strong until night.

Bill paid, we walk to Yul’s soaked in wine.  We would stop and touch pieces of Paris’s beautiful street art, made from the one they call – Invader.

Back at Yul’s the men drank on.  Benedicte retired, speaking soft close French advice to her wine soak love.  “Bonne nuit” she at last said.

We razzed, getting too loud, but then brought it down, then getting too loud, then brought it back down again.  We agreed: Paris is the only place to break down.  And toasted that Yul is a mighty host.




At a roadside café finishing up hot coffee, talking about how much damage the mechanics fee and parts would be on our excursion, we headed out again, unknowingly followed by two French officers.  This roadside café was a trap.  Officers will sit in a road side petrol shop at the standing café waiting for foreigners, then, once the foreigners leave, the trappers spring their trap.  They got something to prove.

The French coppers had us line up while they went through our bags, the Sprinter and the back where all the gear was.  An hour and a half delay.  They even had us hold our hands up as they went into our pockets.  Not a smart or manly thing to do.  Logically, a hidden pocket prick, from a drug needle, sends an officer straight to an AIDS test.

They fished around and pulled the contents out.  Even though we could tell that this must be in their handbook, a good humiliating act to do to a suspect, we didn’t care, we thought it a laugh on them.  You see, we are from New England, Boston boys and this act only proved to us that they would get closer to a man then we would.  To be frank – it’s simply something a man who likes women wouldn’t want to do.  I’d say, “empty your pockets.”

When it was my turn and the officer brushed something private in my pocket, I looked down at him, raised my eyebrows and smiled.  And the lot of us men let out held back laughter.  The power balance swayed.  The officers no longer spoke forcefully.  The officers apologized and, as men, they knew we thought them to be silly.



The Road To Église Sainte-Ségolène


The gypsy reunion the night before,

a party at a Belgian Hotel

full of dancing and shouting

women and music

had made me feeling like,

I was a

fat man

who had eaten too much,

but damn happy about it.

I stepped outside

a nightclub in Metz, France

with a warm, low, thumping


It was rounding 1:00PM

in the afternoon.

I walked the stone streets,

still wet from the morning shower

in the bathroom sink.

I would stay wet through the day,

for the sun would not be

burning though these misty clouds.


It was a quiet French town.

Door hinges let out eerie squeaks,

with the help of the weak wind.

The last few days were a low time for the souls of us men,

but the last night was full of

red wine, good beer

and groups of people

who didn’t know one another,

but loved one another.


Continuing with the wet stones under my feet

I came to the small center for a sit.

The stone bench

was facing a water fountain.

I used the mist from the spray to

rub my face clean,

cleaned my ears,

and dunked my head in the fountain

to wake up.


While submerged,

I could hear

the faint, wavering notes

of a trumpet player warming up.

I whipped my wet

hair back and took a seat

back on the

stone bench.

Mixed with the sound

of the water fountain

and a small French flag flapping

in the cold wind,

with one bird chirping,

the municipality slowly came

alive around me.


An ancient church door in front of me opens,

but no one exits.

A young boy riding a bicycle

with a younger boy on his handlebars

coasts by.

The restaurant Jehanne d’Arc

is closed.

All the

patio chairs

are strung together neatly and locked.

A quiet, older man approaches

and sits on a bench near me,

he looks at the fountain,

squinting from the spray,

exhales a long breath

and closes his eyes.

I look at him twice,

as I dry my hair with my hands.

On the second glance,

a pretty older woman,

with long black hair

and a long black coat

walks by,

leaving her perfume scent.

The sent was sweet. 


I notice I’m swaying a bit

from my hangover.

My headache

makes its entrance again.

I wipe my wet face

and look around a bit more.


Through the spray of the fountain,

I see

two young girls

walk by,

shoes clacking

and chit chatting.

One has started up smoking; she’s clumsy with it.

A young couple takes the corner

with a bushy puppy

and they look at me.

They talk about me in French,

but seem to be alright with me.


Finally, exiting the open door

of the church Eglise Ste Segolene – Prarrkircke,

a priest and a friend come out

and lock up.

They shake hands

and leave

in different directions.

The young couple’s

bushy puppy

barks at the priests

and the older man beside me moves on.

The church gives out three bell tolls

– twice.


Then it begins to rain.

And the rain picks up

and my page gets very wet

and my head aches and aches even stronger,

and I head down Les Trinitaires,

back to the venue

to see the men again.


The Englishmen were

late to this gig

and are just now

beginning their set,

to no one.


I look up and see the Frenchmen

in the second story window.

They are opening many bottles of red wine.

This is their hometown.

The Frenchmen

are all smiles up there;

their women are beautiful.

And I wonder how my spindly ass got

to such a beautiful place

and I wonder if I should join the Frenchmen in wine

and I wonder why I had left the group of men for so long in the first place

and I wonder why I’d call this boring, quiet, place




Thanks for reading! I will post 10 pages tomorrow. You can find Modern American Gypsy here:

And check out the bonus poems below.

Take care,

David McWane


Bonus Poem 1 of 2


le logique du couple

we should never try and understand

why one man loves a woman

and a woman her man

we must shy away from the hearsay of love

are we but fools



imposing our opinions on another’s love

how arrogant

how self-righteous

of us

it is only

le logique du couple

and that

is all



to know


Bonus Poem 2 of 2


les larmes du jeune coiffeur


I live in a basement apartment

so my bedroom is in an alley way

alley number 34,

in the Back Bay of Boston,

when I sleep,

my head is a brick wall away

from a popular

smoke break area



it’s either the

Brazilian men

from the restaurant

catching up with

one another

letting out big laughter,




just talking about the women

from the weekend


or it’s the South Shore girls

from the salon

gum chewing,



and talking about how stupid their boyfriends are


starting at 5:00AM

it’s the men,

but after 8:00AM

it’s strictly the girls


with incredible linguist speed

these girls

make plans with boyfriends

on their phones

talking about

when they need to be picked up,

what they want to do after work

yet most often

they are in endless arguments

with the inaudible men


my alarm clock

each morning

is men laughing

to later

the tears of hairdressers


“you don’t listen”


“well, if it’s over just tell me”




“why the fuck are you being such a shit?”


if I’m sleeping late

and if a girl is knee deep in a good scream,

I’ll have to listen for as long as her break – thirty minutes

but it’s not uncommon

for one girl to finish and

another girl to come out and begin


the women of the hair style salon




snap chewing gum

and ask ‘why?’ a lot


I lay in bed hearing their thick South Shore accents

hear their points and counter points

hear the pauses for long drags of marlboro light cigarettes

and try and figure out if I think she is right or not


it seems

most of the time

they are the right ones

maybe their men are stupid


but one morning, my waking argument was different

the man was actually there

he had shown up in alley 34

and parked his car three feet from my pillow

the stylist must have been new

or at least had not spent much time

crying in the alley

because I didn’t recognize her voice

she was French

right off the boat French

and he was too


their thoughts danced out in their voluptuous language

thick words, spoken from the front of their puckered lips

bounced into my ears waking me


they went at it


screaming with stone skipping speed

in and out of English I picked up her saying,


“well, if you want to break up with me, then do it now”


then, after minutes of French he’d say in English,


“you are so negative, you do not listen”


and she didn’t listen


I don’t know exactly what their logique du couple was

but they both seemed wrong and

they both



I wanted to get out of bed this particular morning and

get to what it is I had to get to

but I had left the blinds up the night before,

so, if I didn’t stay put, they’d see me

and my spindly white body

a brick wall length from them


oh, they fought for too, too long


she wouldn’t listen

so I got out of bed

half naked

and they stopped dead in mid-sentence

and the air of


surrounded them

I could hear their thoughts

‘did he

just listen

to everything?’

yes, I did, I mentally sent back to them

I yawned in the hall,

stretched in the bathroom

and scratched my entire body

in the kitchen

– visible from the window

I then walked back to my bedroom to

put the blinds down

they were holding hands looking at me

once the blinds snapped shut

I went back

to the loo

for a piss

and thought

‘you don’t listen jeune coiffeur’


Both bonus poems are from the book Let The Poets Come And Stop Me, found here:

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