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I see you

Looking. Staring.

Your judgement pierces me like a knife

What do you see when you look at me?

You see a bloke dishevelled and dirty

who’s bent up, beaten down

… by the world

... by society

... by people – like you - who see no further than what is in front of them;

who make assumptions

You cringe.

You turn up your nose

You look away.

You cross the road rather than come near me.

Are you afraid that I might talk to you?

... that I might ask you for money?

... that I might mug you?

Have no fear, sir;

it’d take me three minutes just to get to my knees

another three to stand up.

Yes, my hands tremble,

my head shakes.

It’s not the DTs.

I’m not desperate for my next hit.

I get more hits than I can handle from people like you:

... your attitude

... your dismissal

... your refusal to see me as a person.

Come on, come closer -

I dare you!

The only hand out I want is yours, to help me up

so you can look me in the eyes

and see a fellow human being

... but you’ll keep walking

past me, past the others down the street like me.

Yes, we are desperate - but we are not desperados.

When night comes I’ll curl up,

I’ll crawl into this cardboard box;

a foetal ball curled up in my own shell.

Pray that it doesn’t rain.

Pray that people don’t come along and kick me

... spit on me

... piss on me

... beat me senseless.

l massage my aching arthritic joints

while waiting for the Rosie’s van;

... for the kindness

... for a hot cup of soup

... for a friendly ear.

They’ve heard my story scores of times

yet they listen as if I’m telling it for the very first

Tomorrow it’s my turn to go to the shelter

... to have a shower

... to get some clean clothes

... to speak to mental health worker.

He might be able to get me into the clinic this week

so I can get some medication to stop the tremors

... to quiet my mind

... to ease my painful joints,

maybe some physio

I’ll get fed for a week - two if I'm lucky -

before it’s someone else’s turn for a warm bed and a roof over their head

then I’m back here, where you are walking away from.

You turn.

You are looking back to see

if I am looking up to see

if you were looking back at me.

I'm not.

© Ian McDougall

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in. - Alan Alda, actor and director (b. 1936)

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