I saw you last night, friend.
(How long’s it been? Months?
And what ossified, what paralysed continents
Has your mind traversed in that time?)
You were after fags, and I had fifty pence.
I saw your eyes: sharpened to splinters in a frosting blue,
Scouring my face with the frightful, super-acuity
Of one who has been made blind.
I took you in my arms.
Because you looked vulnerable, I think;
And your body was like a broken bird’s.
There, laid bare, was the mechanism
Of what one calls a mind:
Letting in the rain – beneath the canvas of what we term
Humanity, a personhood – the cogs, salted and rusting.
And I think: How thin the sheet is, how quickly
The skin is frayed and worn away, tattered like tarpaulin.
I think… This is someone I care for, reduced to a machine,
A faulty machine.
Where does that leave the rest of humankind?
A poem for the Hackney friend I bumped into one Christmas night, as she wandered alone on Wells Street.