Tag Archives: spying

Crossing the Street

crossingthestreet

“I’m sorry, I don’t carry change.”

That’s what I always say, though sometimes
it’s a lie.

From Goa to Mumbai
it is considered unwise to give to children who beg on the streets;
better to donate to charities that protect them from their tormentors.
I live by that principle on my forays through this English town
where the victims are adult, their tormentors
are chemicals to be melted on a spoon and injected,
and their habit can kill.

These days I rarely engage with them;
they don’t require sandwiches, pasties or practical advice
and I can’t give them a bed for the night, so I can do nothing to assist,
yet those eyes kidnapped me as she begged beside Tesco Metro.

“I’m sorry – I don’t carry change,” I said.

It was the eyes that detained me;
eyes that sang in the storm of cause and effect,
in the chaos what was and what might have been;
eyes that could not be silenced, that trilled above the din,
calmly revealing what she would have liked to conceal,
colouring in the thrill of travel, the regret
of roughened hands which once caressed,
rising to a crescendo to describe the hurricane
that threw her up, and flung her
in the gutter,

and as her eyes glistened,
I listened to the howling wind
as it echoed her dirge of the death
of a wolf of the Steppes,

If we are not all equal, as some believe,
she was much more than many I meet. When we parted,
I flirted with my purse, knowing my money would bring her
a pin-prick of relief, but I crushed the brief temptation,
since it could purchase her doom.

Her eyes watched me while I wrote,
and while I ate and read and slept. When I woke
I thought of her.

Spying from my hallowed side of the street,
finding third parties to relate her trials and treats,
I kept my distance to evade the pain of intimacy,

Just once, I fell again
into those eyes that had swum the skies
before sinking into the blood-flecked mud.
I asked her a question and watched her eyes
while they lied to me.

Her tongue was too noble to verbalise an untruth,
yet her eyes suggested a lie;
thereby giving me fake justification
for my evasion.

Yet I had openly lied to her when I had said
“I’m sorry, I don’t carry change.”

I can’t say I knew her, or that she knew me,
but she affected me.
It seems she touched everyone she met.
I wanted her to find peace, but not like this.

I’m on nodding terms with the other side of the street,
so the news has already reached me:
last night, her spectacular eyes
closed for the final time.

Today, two bodies lie in the morgue,
the tiny one tightly curled in the womb of its mother,
and I try not to weep for the multiple tragedy
of mindless heroin’s dumb victory.

Rest In Peace, Diane

Word of the Day Challenge: Spying.

When I feel inspired, I write a poem before checking out the word of the day. I usually find that it fits. Today is no exception.

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©Jane Paterson Basil