Incident                                                                                                                                                            Posted 13th October 2013

'Watch yer caur fur a tanner, mister'. Strange
As hieroglyphs the words froze in his breath.
His eyes rifled the passing faces deftly, trained
To pick each moment's pockets of small change.
Thin body in its trousers of frail cloth,
Elbowless jersey, cracking shoes, attained
An emblematic stance, defying pity.
Like a confidential file his starved face read
'Congenital case of backstreets of a city'
While Glasgow suppurated round his head.

The man looked down, feeling his well made suit
Grow luxuriously heavy. That raw face
Formed in his glance a chance cast of bleak bones
(Life throws them casually before our feet)
Where the future had already taken place.
While the dark street bled infection from its stones.
His thumb traced on a coin his indecision.
Drop a sixpence in a scummy wishing-well?
His wife's voice - sacrificial, cold precision:
"Tell the little brat to go to Hell."

They wandered in a maze of ideal homes,
Kitchen units, cookers, and hi-fis.
Welfare Wonderland had come to Kelvin Hall.
Racked by the cost of carpeting two rooms,
His wife struggled with their stern economies.
(Necessity makes martyrs of us all.)
But tasting dishes, testing heaters, he
Astigmatically saw one clenched grey face
Superimposed on chair, wood fireplace.
And all it said relentlessly was 'Me'.

That night he dreamed a different exhibition ­
Stands where children advertised the sores
Of other people's failure. Bargain schemes
In which injustice was the prime condition.
Mock rooms with plush indifference on their floors.
Comfort that was fuelled on warm dreams
Of everything's vague rightness. And he heard
Coming from places that he could not see
Insistent as canned music, the soft words:
'Nothing can be real that counts out me."

But routine brings us to serenity.
Next morning he ate well, washed down the car
And paused, shocked to see scraped across his boot
With stone or knife a brief obscenity,
Blemishing his wellbeing like a scar
Of violence that was to come. He took
A tube of matching paint, healed it but could
Feel malice mounting still like a thrombosis
Unseen, implicit with tomorrow's blood.
Aloes on nails do not cure a neurosis.