Suffer the Wretched
by Ian C Smith
A youngish couple, a toddler, a hoarse lapdog,
spindly trailer loads of depression-era belongings,
the sort left on the verge with rubbish bins
to vanish overnight when clouds eclipse the moon.
He reverses up the driveway, ropes taut, noise level
ramping from silent to near-lunatic,
next door’s house for sale rented too soon.
Slammed doors an intermittent havoc of rifle shots,
she rips into her small boy, a hateful tirade,
cigarette flashing, torching faint hope’s threads.
I fret for the child, this road, rigs rumbling fast.
In the black morning he coughs up his lungs outside,
a phlegmy version of an old-time rooster’s reveille.
Under home siege thoughts of flight flash past.
He seems employed, a job with strange hours.
I counsel myself they are just down on luck
like characters in winter from a Ray Carver poem,
remembering a young couple, work grim, poor pay,
cold districts of blackened bricks, knowing nothing
of filling the tank to the brim, of educated people
who encouraged, forgave, modelled a better way.
Empathy losing, I set off on a long walk in rain
to the town’s outskirts, wetlands’ soft haze.
Swans have flown, pelicans remain,
water ebbs where minuscule birds cling to twigs.