Poor Man’s Street

Steel girders and an iron grey sky - a hard country,

smoke from shunting engines, smells

of gaswork sulphur, latrines and ill drained

lanes of broken houses shattered by the hun.


The grey earth holds a virulent heat,

a dry heat in a parching land.

I think of another street, stale wine

and cobblestones, melon stalls and melting ice.


Steel girders and an iron grey sky - a hard country.

The lights flicker green to fawn and fawn to red

the outcast bent on doubled sticks with stumble feet

moves his weary way to bed.


In the filth of other gutters

I have tasted wine and fruits of life,

melons to find and figs to chew

torta and pizza, pips to spew.

Here the lamplight glares without relief

upon the mildewed wall,

the marks upon the ceiling

cracked mirrors in the hall.


I on my bicycle bear my disappointment badly

for beggars here carry no romance.

Railroad fumes and smut of barren yards

rise bitter to our nostrils.

He stops a moment, breathing hard,

his clawed hand clutching tight the rail,

then, turning from the bridge, he shuffles on

dragging behind him an aching leg

and the weight of seventy years agone.