I saw them, last night.
The father is short, unshaven, hair long
but thinning. He walks in a strange way. He
walks in short steps, quickly, as if hunted.
He walks with his whole body.
He has a condition.
He wears unfit clothes, loose and
dirty. His eyes look past me, though I know
he sees me. He sees everything around
him. He has a complete awareness.
It is his way, his protection, his
lifelong defence against everyone he has
ever met. If pushed, he will fight, bite you
if he has to. He is a victim of his
circumstances, which he can never change.
He passes me by, unacknowledged.
Behind him, his daughter. Dark haired,
unlovely but unaware of that fact, she
has some of his walk, and all of his height.
There is an arrogance, a sense of self
emanating from her like a light. He
has taught his daughter to value herself.
A vision of their future comes to me.
They will have small lives, without
opportunities or joy. They will always feel
frustrated, but will not understand why.
She is eating on foot. An open parcel
of fish and chips, forked rapidly into her
quick little mouth as she moves. At the
last mouthful, she drops the fork,
and the wrapper
and the container
on the worn grassy path beneath her
feet. She walks on. She does not
He has taught his daughter everything
he knows. What he knows is this: nothing
matters in this world. Nothing but him,
and his daughter, and the rest of
his family. Just like all the other people
who owe this world nothing, who are
owed nothing, who are giving back
what they have been given.