She stood at the counter, radiating rage,
Hungry to hurt, to make somebody pay
For her own mistake. The more the manager tried
To help her, the more fury she unleashed.
And everyone behind her in the queue
Looked at each other, bonding in disgust.
An old man whispered: "One shot to the brain"
And pointed at her, and the whole queue laughed.
She was more ugly than an open wound.
And then I pictured her, long years before,
A girl of five or six, lying awake
In bed, staring at shadows on the wall,
In dread of vampires, zombies, faceless things.
I saw her drawing pictures of herself
In Narnia and Disneyland. I saw
A little girl playing outside all day
As though the holidays would never end.
I saw her pulling on her mother's sleeve,
"Mommy, please get me one of these. Please. Please."
I saw her throwing breadcrumbs to the ducks
Trying to reach the shy one far away.
And then I pictured, in some day to come,
A woman, wizened by the years, alone
In a cancer ward. A row of Get Well cards
From relatives and former colleagues, scrawled
With words of hope, all hollow words of hope.
The book unread, the fruit untasted, dreams
Unlived, impossible now. And from the street
Outside, the laughter of some raucous girls,
The careless joy of a receding world.
And then, and then, and then--
My anger melted like the morning mist
And pity dawned like the pale winter sun.