Top-hatted, silk-tied gentlemen and ladies all a-bustle
Laugh and joke and giggle and loudly share their fright.
“Can it be real?! Was that a man?!” “My dear, ‘twas just a hustle.”
Their cobble-clatter carriage wheels mis-punctuate the night.
And when gaslights from the penny gaff are finally extinguished -
Exhibition over – and the gaffer calls it “Time!”
A shadow of a creature drags back toward the workhouse,
Seeking out the shelter of the shadows and the grime.
Nor African nor Indian, this elephantine creature,
Muscles heavy-burdened with the sackfuls of his bulk,
Hauls his wearied limbs of gargantuan proportion
Along the darkened alleyways to loiter and to skulk.
Cranial protuberance disguises his humanity.
His porridge-lumpy cheeks struggle vainly for expression
His physical affliction oft mistaken for insanity.
Rarely given second chance to change that first impression.
Dragging ragged sackcloth through cobbled vales of piss,
His liquid eye of octopus surveys each gin-grey alley;
Alights upon a trashy pile – where something is amiss -
His curiosity aroused - A momentary dally -
A rustle of the heap leaves him mindless of himself
For huddled there twixt road and wall, in filthy foetal curl,
Wafer thin and feather light and flimsy as an elf,
Scarce lifting up her sorry cup - a ragamuffin girl!
He tosses half a penny and for just a fleeting while
Strokes her greasy, scabby head and grieves her sorry plight.
And in that fractured second he elicits half a smile
Then shuffles quietly back into the shadows and the night.