Let’s not prejudge him, scorn, deride, decide, dispense with.
not to. Hosts of Dickens’ grizzled greys come cold sneak creeping
back to mind. Singular and strange of name,
weird, not to be trusted. Criminally active, some. Baddies
clearly, best to avoid.
Still, I mind my own, not others’ business.
Behind a tenement, transient dwellers, passing trade.
He’s in – and out – in no time. Done his deal.
Walks fast, about his business. Brisk. Can’t help but see
he’s cocky, quick-eyed, sharp. A lizard looking both ways, side
He’s done some time, for sure.
The dog-leg lane, I’m walking even-paced,
no hurry when a supermarket calls. The metal-cling
of boot heels crisp click clipping asphalt tar behind.
Don’t look back, footsteps steady, purpose casual,
unafraid. While up ahead, two men loitering, one
hands in pockets. Another kerbside. Here
comes my man. He passes me, it’s him they greet.
He’s skinny, mid height, lank hair baseball capped,
the jacket long, on jeans. They move, speak, slide
inside a doorway, fast change of notes, small
packets palmed and hidden. I look the other way.
I’m walking faster.
Please be overlooked. I too,
“Know naating,” like Manuel.
Weeks meander. Then in a park there’s three of them
abreast. He’s on the end. We pass, he looks at me,
I make no sign.
It’s hard, but scared, it’s easy too.
Out with my grandchild next, he’s in the street. Approaching,
slick paced and I say, “Don’t see this man. Look straight ahead.”
She does unblinking, so we pass,
then when he’s gone,
I turn and whisper, “He’s a dealer. Drugs.” Her eyes grow wide.
“Tell the police,” my husband says. On such slight slim scanty evidence?
Officer, I swear to money changing hands. And packets too
being pocketed. It can’t be magic beans he’s stalking. Not this skinny Jack.
Would I know him in a line-up?
Yes. But do I want an alley’s reckoning up the score?
Then he’s on a main road, crossing fast. A woman’s with him.
Hard life, looks and clothes. Been on the game
too long. Struggles to keep apace and pleading all the way,
but he ignores her.
Sees me waiting for a cab and knows he’s seen me somewhere,
more than once. Wonders if I know him?
I will the cab to come. They move on and I turn
to see his hair’s now pony-tailed beneath his cap.
He stops a passing woman
for a light. Was this so he could turn and check on me?
I’ll play his game again. Let him watch me, then walk
straight on, without a look. His secret’s safe with me.
I’ll let him think, my double dealer, I’m just some dumb
and senior harmless cit.
Better that than meet him halfway down a dog-leg lane.