They Won’t Return: Haunt of Thieves

They Won't Return

 

They Won’t Return

 

Tide fans up the estuary a warm salt froth

That rinses rot, that hinge of flesh

Holding a clamshell shut

The gulls discard them careless cracked

To bake and stink with dragging seaweed

And wooden ribs will lose their battle

The fisher in his stilt-house barters

For half a hull to piece together

A walking path that rings and rudely cheapens

Cliff falls of carven masonry small demons

Sunk to their necks in sand

The victors here permit the poor to move in rags

Often they won’t return

The stalls where the road comes down

Sell goods for coin, in lieu of keeping tabs

Their keepers point to posters, totals tally-marked

As ranks are filled

 

Two work side by side to ease a third across

She, the water woman, at this task undaunted

Whether or not the crippled man unwashed

Or lousy, both, her head is in his armpit

Her arm is round his waist

Her strength is wholly vested

The other cannot bring himself to grip

Has got the matted garment’s folds

And shuns the flesh

Tilts away, moves to the front, moves to the back

Purses lips and draws his brows

“My daughter, my true daughter,” the old man says

 


 

Charity (poem)

Haunt of Thieves, Mystery Plays (excerpts)

 

(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)

 

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