I worked in the poorer quarter,
I saw much but knew little more,
I watched like the watchman waiting,
At the closed and the hard bolted door.
I suppose she had not turned forty,
But a century bore her down,
Beset by her truanting children,
In the slums of the shadowing town.
Perhaps she had been a beauty,
Perhaps she had danced until dawn,
But now she was older and empty,
In a dress that was dirty and torn.
My mind rushed to past lives and lovers,
When the world was a spectre of light,
As we laughed and we sang in the moonlight,
And the future was hopeful and bright.
It was chips and some scraps for her children,
Though she could have nothing at all,
No coins in her purse or her pocket,
And none there to answer her call.
And I with abundance ignored her,
Though it’s true I had plenty to spare,
A plenty to do what I please with,
But not enough plenty to care.
And I know when I gaze from my window,
Onto sun-scented meadow and cott,
That there in the shadowing township,
Are realities better forgot.
For I will and I want to change nothing,
What I do will defend what I know,
And I have no reason to tear down one stone,
In the place where the ragged ones go.
And yet there is something inside me,
That orders my life to atone,
For a mother with truanting children,
Who is lost and so very alone.
Perhaps and perhaps and then maybe
I’ll do something and nothing today,
For there’s always the sun-scented meadow,
When these shadows have faded away.