The Family

I roll up the shutter
the car moves
as the light turns green.
A girl,
a woman at thirteen
sari draped around poking bones,
a gash on the cheek
body abused at street corners
laid by anyone – a driver, a police constable
for a morsel
to the mouth twisted in nausea of hunger.

The community of beggars
a straggling family of women, men, children
that interbreed to remain warm on cold nights,
to keep mosquitoes away
share a tattered shawl
on summer nights,
lying under smelly bridges
the throb of traffic above courses through them,
a fly settles on a snot smeared face
a hand rests on someone’s breast
fondling as weariness falls away in thick sleep.

Their home in the plains of the north
tossed deep under mines
when teeth of greed bit into the guts of the earth,
scavenging the cities
inhabiting subways and railway stations
bathing in public taps
lathering a bar of soap among ten
they sit in groups on pavement combing hair
sparkling for the night
the men, women and children –
children still sore with pain between legs from the previous day.

One city as unidentifiable as the other,
here in my city
the traffic light where I pass by twice a day
is their home now.
The young mother sits under the traffic pole
her emaciated child suckles
a window of flesh for everyone to see,
in a few years the child will dodge dangerously
between cars asking for alms
or sell yellow duster cloths
for the dealer who treats them to food, sex
and a little money.

 


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