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Poem: On meeting a man in the road

November 18, 2014
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When we were young, my friend and I met a man in the road.

He was making snow angels, although there was no snow,

just the tinny, scratching sound of concrete and Dutch Gold.

 

He said the boys would take him away

in a big, yellow van.

He said he hadn’t long,

then he laughed and then he cried.

 

He said the boys would come and run him down

in a big, yellow van.

 

My peers and I gathered round, intrigued by this man’s breaking down,

we watched and talked of this and other things.

His body shook when he cried and set the cans around him trembling.

All that he had owned was invested in this, his anesthetic,

 

for when the boys would come and run him down

in a big, yellow van.

 

He talked of Star Wars for a time and then,

suddenly his body righted,

his leg extended, children backed away frightened;

a girl of six or seven was lifted bodily,

his foot connecting with her stomach.

 

He fell back to the ground, amid and on the cans

and resumed his story of the big and yellow van.

 

Small but many were the hands that helped the girl to her feet.

She gave forth tears of pain and yet she did not cry;

to her little frame, the blow came as no surprise.

 

On seeing this, the silent knowledge rippled through the crowd,

each pair of eyes long since trained to recognise

those who were and were not “fine”,

according to the standards of the place.

 

The crowd turned its youthful gaze

back to the place where the man had fallen

and once more lay,

and I now realise, showed no sign of shame.

 

Though none approached,

some hand less juvenile than our own

had departed from its window and taken up its phone.

 

In due course, someone came and took the man away

in a white and not a yellow van.

For now, at least, he was saved.

 

This could not be said of those he left behind (though not my friend and I),

beaten, bedraggled and dirty.

Many soon had children of their own,

and others died their sad and violent deaths before the age of thirty.

 

When we were young, my friend and I, met a man in the road

and afterwards, we bought a coke.

We talked of something else by the time we reached home.

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