/ Word and Image

The sharpness

"And salted was my food, and my repose"

I’m looking for the sharpness
that comes when you will it,
but not as if it’s willed –
like the first sinful cigarette of the day,
that immense nicotine rush
which gives every line its clarity,
or a photograph in such pure
and crystalline focus that the edges hurt.

Today I find it in the cold,
walking fast through the street:
cold that bites into me so deep
the trapped tears roll down my cheeks
in the open street
and I walk fast trying to remember
how he looked,
the man I saw yesterday
as the crowds passed by.

There was no blue pillar, no snow,
no blue sweat-shirt, no artful smear
of matching blue, as in the photograph
I saw last week. Just the man asleep,
rolled up in two old sleeping bags
on the edge of the street
beside a mound of rags and newspapers
with an empty bottle and his begging cup overturned,
because the last time he was awake
there was no one around to give.

My trapped tears flow in the cold.
Not for the man, not for the memory
of the man, but because I am cold.
The cold comes first, then the tears,
then the photograph, then the memory
of the man asleep. This much is clear.


The sharpness
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