Frail as smoke, she drifts
through the crowded train,
bringing with her
the cold ashes of poverty.
Without a word, her bruise-blue eyes
try to niggle each passenger
to part with coins or a note.
The sign pleads her story:
Three children in foster care.
Like promises of happier times, some
passengers toss hard-edged confetti
at her, before hiding behind
newspapers or over-loud
her like an errant child
with swift, silent shakes of their heads.
I look at her canescent face
and know I have seen her before,
on a grey, Sydney day in George Street.
‘Homeless, hungry, and cold’
her sign read then, as she curled
like a cloud on the footpath
near Town Hall.
In the dusk of a blustery day,
people, toting bags emblazoned
with designer labels, walked past.
Their gaze sliding away from her like water,
they turned toward the nimbus
of lights across the street, glittering
like angels in the trees.
I walked on too, then wished I had
But the tide
flowed against me.
With nothing else to give
I came home and wrote a poem.
© May 2003 Dale Harcombe
First published Artlook February 2005