house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


When you stop for a minute and look around
at some traffic lights, or to tie up your shoelaces
or to wait some minor cramp away
or to breathe and find out what street you're breathing...

That's when they run to you, hands out, eyes rounded in ancestral grief
beggars in frayed shalwaar kameez
matted hair, dusty fingers, bare feet
thin as reeds in the grip of a river that won't feed them, won't hold them, won't
let them go.

That's when the question returns: to give? Not
to give?
(if you give they'll give it to some greasy street lord.)
(if you don't give the greasy street lord shall beat them.)

That's when you see that all of them have something to sell
Slices of coconut or illegible newspapers
Your windscreen washed with a gray sponge
A glimpse of some atrocious disability
or the very opposite: a glimpse of childish dimpled innocence...

That's when you see those
who have nothing.
Like this old woman: teeth? None.
Hair? Thin, grey, tied in a small bun.
Flesh on that dry clavicle? Gone.
She lifts her hand to beg, but no strength either: the arm falls, the gaze follows.
The day too heavy to bear, too alien to be.

That's when your child opens up her school bag
and after much rummaging takes out her pencil case
and out of the pencil case her pocket money
and then lifts the woman's hand in hers
for a giving and a receiving
that arch over years
and cultures and colours and continents
to look the same: smile-shaped, serene.


At 23 October 2012 at 12:58 , Anonymous Elie said...

gorgeous. you gave me goosebumps!

At 24 October 2012 at 03:31 , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 25 October 2012 at 09:09 , Anonymous Marina Sofia said...

Wonderful - I love the contrast between the over-analytical and fearful adult, and the spontaneous gesture of the child. I have something a little similar here
but I think you rendered it much more beautifully.

At 25 October 2012 at 12:56 , Blogger emwolfem said...

Thank you!!! I loved your story on cowbird (and I loved cowbird - what a great idea, what do you do to get / post stuff there?)

At 25 October 2012 at 15:03 , Anonymous Marina Sofia said...

Let me send you an invitation - I think you would be perfect for Cowbird storytelling...


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