Thoughts milling in my head,
tense, high-strung, a gang
of neighbourhood thugs
restless in black leather
and chained boots –
smell of axle grease
sharp in the nostrils.
Cigarettes dangle carelessly
from hard mouths
as insolent eyes stare, cynical,
at the world and energy slashes
from tense fingertips.
At first they barely deign to notice me
creeping toward them with my notepad,
working up the courage to pin them down;
then suddenly, at some hidden command,
they all stare fixedly in my direction,
brought to attention by the urge
to rid themselves of this annoyance.
Cigarettes flung in a flash
to the cold pavement,
hands now bristling
with brass knuckles, they hulk,
menacing, in my direction.
I retreat with all due haste:
So sorry, ladies and gentlemen,
sorry I bothered you! I was just leaving,
no need to disturb yourselves;
I’ll see myself out…
Or, worse yet,
I slip past the “No Admittance” sign,
jimmy the lock,
break down the chain
and rush in with my notepad,
poised to record –
and no one’s home.
Seems there’ll be no writing this night.
[Susannah Hay, 1997]