The Running Girl

It was early morning, the hour before rush,

the quiet time when people are at home,

getting ready to do what they are going to do

with their day.

I saw her from a distance.

A runner, coming up the hill towards me. I saw

a figure wearing a white peaked cap

and something in salmon pink, close fitting,

three quarter leggings and long sleeves.

What I saw was grace.

She moved quickly but not fast, stepping up

the hill as though it wasn’t there. Her arms

hung loose, hands held out to the front,

shoulders relaxed and square, moving easily,

comfortable. Her legs swung from her hips

in a steady rhythm, regular and unhurried.

When she came closer, I could see she was

barely breathing.

Her body moved in a straight line,

no rising or falling or rolling to the side.

Just running.

Her hair was plaited and tucked under the hat,

and there was a sheen to her

fine, dark-chocolate skin,

though it was not sweat.

It was the glow of health, vitality,

pure, perfect humanity.

I could see, then.

This day was the best day of her life.

She would never be better, more alive,

more beautiful.

I had an urge to tell her this, to stop her

as she passed and say to her,

“You look wonderful,” and

“You will never be better than you are right now.”

But I didn’t.

In these times, in these woke days,

strangers, old men,

people like me,

can’t say things like that

to people like her.

Even if the words are true.

She passed me by and I watched her disappear

and said nothing.

On Early Death

Burned someone today.

A good woman, vital, lively,

loved.

Her time came too early

in the middle of her life.

Family and friends came

to say farewell,

with hot tears

and soft sobbing

and hard pressed lips

in a place burning with emotions.

There will be another one soon,

another dying day for the living

to bear and witness.

Another life finished too early.

We will gather around the fire

of them, and we will moan and wail

while we wait for the ashes of them.

I would rather not do this.

I would rather go somewhere

and sit in silence,

alone with myself,

and remember them.

“Haply I’ll think on thee.”

I don’t want this. I don’t want

to inflict my passing on those

that I love.

I’ve made up my mind.

I’m not going to die.

What Am I?

My hair is dirty.

Dirty, greasy hair.

Dirty with me,

with the sweat of me,

with what comes out of me,

with what makes me, me.

Am I dirty?

Is that what I am?

Is that all that I am?

What am I?

I’ve often thought about that,

what I’m made of,

what I am.

I am a man, and man

spoils everything.

Man is dirty.

Unclean.

Bring on the virus,

bring on the plagues,

the pestilence, the wars

to the death.

Man must be cleansed.

In Her Place

It’s not much, but it is home,

the place she lives

with the man she chose.

He keeps her in her place

with the weight of his thumb.

Her place is wherever

he wants it to be.

She wriggles and writhes

but never really tries

to escape. She knows her place.

She shows her daughter

so that she will understand

her own place.

She does not know

she is preaching to the subverted.

One day the stains tell her

that someone has taken her place,

someone bloody, young.

Her husband laughs in her face.

That night, she widens his smile,

from ear to ear, sees him dying,

lying in the bed she made,

staining the place they sleep.

She weeps at what it cost.

She has lost her place.

What would you do

in her place?

Teenage Daydreams

Face like a moonscape, pale, pitted, pocked, and pretty

ugly, the teenager sees with their own mind’s eye.

They see what they think others see. The petty mirror lies

on the wall, telling them tales of what they are not.

They are not perfect, the mirror shows, eyes too small,

a crooked nose, ears that stick out through the hair,

grown so long to hide what’s there. They are not

what they want to be, they are not bold or bright

or strong or sweet, they are not like their own best

friends, those others who they want to be, so easy, light

and free of worries over acne spots and greasy hair.

They daydream all the day and night, believing that

they never will be right enough for anyone to care.

Their little faults, made huge by inspection,

become so big they can’t see beyond them.

No teenager sees that these are their best years,

that they are in the blessed years,

that soon they will be at their finest,

their most glorious and shiniest,

tight and taut and fit and strong,

and, looking back, forever young.

View From A Window

The world looked different back then.

Our house stood at the top of a hill, one of the

supposed seven on which the city stood. From my bedroom

I could see all its lights shining in the night, stretched out

like a dream of sparks and embers.

The house backed on to a municipal park. In the summer,

in full leaf, trees blocked the view of the city.

Through autumn, winter and spring, though,

I could see these lights, this lit carpet of life

spread before me like a tribute.

The daytime views were of bright miles of hills

and buildings, distances as vague as the future;

or, on wet days, of looking down on rain clouds

rolling slowly in the valleys.

Thunder and lightning were an unspeakable thrill

that almost made me believe in God,

but not quite. I was young then.

I didn’t know the value of that kind of thing,

a view,

being able to see for miles,

not having someone looking back at you.

I just liked the quiet of it, my bedroom,

looking out at the night, the lights of my room

switched off, cosseting myself in darkness.

Somewhere else in the house, my mother

was realising that her children would

all be leaving home soon

and that she couldn’t afford to live there alone.

I didn’t see that coming.

The house was sold soon after the last of us left.

My view now is of someone else’s house,

someone I don’t like, who doesn’t like me back.

The old house isn’t far away. I could go back,

see what it’s like now, but I never have.

The world looks too different now.

Season’s Eatings

Here they come, a-slithering,

to start their nightly winnowing,

the slugs and snails, the worms and lice,

all seeking out what once was nice,

was beautiful, but now is not,

now slowly sinking into rot

to feed these little manure makers,

these busy, slimy undertakers,

creatures of the damp and dark,

eaters of the leaf and bark.

They have another purpose, too.

I think it might discomfort you,

but you must know it plain and clear,

it is not something you should fear,

it comes to each and every one,

eventually, when life is done:

those of us who are not burned

are by them to the earth returned.