Photograph of a girl on a slum doorstep in 1912

Yes, she sits like that everyday.

Yes, she answers quickly when you speak.

Yes, she just got it recently, was diffident.

Yes, her mother told her to tie up rags to soak it up.

 

No, I think it is not her baby. I do not know

if it is the neighbour’s baby, her mother’s baby

or her niece or nephew. If someone

asks her regularly for help or thrust it

at her suddenly, here, I’ll be back soon

and left her sitting there, capably weighing

those starfish limbs, cynical young eyes.

 

Yes, she has shoes, but she does not

often wear them, why get them dirty when feet

stain far less easily, are easier to repair

when punctured or torn by stones, glass or wheels.

She does not waste anything, except herself.

 

Yes, she is pleased to have him take her picture,

that smile cannot be tricked out by anything

but real joy. No, no one has taken her picture

before this morning, but it did not trouble her.

 

Yes, I kept turning back and back

to this photograph, brought up short

like a stitch in the side by her fingers

clutching the baby-blanket so tight as if

the small wind will tear it away.

Published online March 01 2009.


Poetry Only cover image

This piece was published in ‘Poetry Only,’ the Spring 2009 issue of CV2.

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