Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Watching the Wheels

He had been left behind, left stranded
by life’s onward flow
and the twists and turns of fate.  Most afternoons
I saw him up by the recycling bins:
he would sit watching the wheels of the passing cars, and
from time to time, as I watch him,
stand and shake a fist, and shout something,
as though one car had upset or angered him more than the rest;
but I could never quite manage to catch the words.

We always called him Barry,
and that might have been his name.

Today I see a rusty grey truck
judder and groan nearly to a stop on the highway,
generating a chorus of horn blasts from among the busy traffic,
before turning to pass through the gap in the twisted fence
with its ragged hangings of bindweed and hops:
time once again for the bins to be emptied of their bottles and cans.
As the dust settles I see Barry, forced to leave his sentry post, moving
crouching and crablike towards the shelter of a nearby overgrown hedge.
The bins are efficiently hoisted, turned upside down,
set back to be filled again.  More dust, but it doesn’t take long;  meanwhile
Barry looks on, framed in a tangle of hawthorn,
waiting for the warning beep
as the lorry reverses to leave.  He is not recyclable,
cannot be turned to any useful purpose, and so
will simply stay around, I guess.

And yes, as soon as the lorry lurches out to rejoin the traffic flow,
he sidles, scuttles back to rejoin the stranded flotsam on this barren shore.
As I turn to walk on, I see him once again
take up his usual position, crouching forward, hand raised as a shield,
or as maybe a challenge;
papers blow aimlessly across the yard,
meaning nothing, and going nowhere, as once again he
watches the wheels,  with his hurt and angry eyes.

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