THE OLD LADY IN ST LAZARE

Monet: La Gare Saint-Lazare. Oil on Canvas. National Gallery, London. 1877
Claude Monet, La Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877, National Gallery, London.

This is one for all the ghosts we never talk to, never look in the eye, who were once counted among the ranks of the living, just like you and me.

***

THE OLD LADY IN ST LAZARE

The old lady in Saint Lazare
isn’t old—she has this ageing disease.
She materialized a year ago
like a landmark on my commute.
Walkers pass her bowl-shaped hand,
her apologetic relic of a smile.
Sorry, Lady. Too clean to be a real hobo.
She looks too much like me
and I only give to the deserving.
I want to ask her how she lost
enough weight to fall through the cracks,
slip between the lines of the grid.
I want to ask but you’re not allowed
to talk to ghosts—so I slip her a coin,
furtive, so the others will not see.
One day she wears a black-eye
like a flag. One day a halo of flies.
She must be raking it in now.
And then one day she is not there.
I look around, pretending
I’m not looking for a ghost.
Rub the face right off the coins
in my pocket, to keep my hands warm.

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