Tough week at work, incessant rain in the city too, suburban acres of lawn to be cut. The crew pent up in the van, scratchy as a bag of weasels. But on Thursday the sun shines, and it’s pay-day, for me at least. For them it’s a 25-quid top-up on a meagre disability allowance.
Between mowings, a chance to spend a moment with A, try to find him inside that black cloud. Inch, his few intimates call him when they’re feeling fond, and he’ll grin wolfishly, and they’ll insult each other with warmth and wit, the rueful alliance of the oppressed with the taunted, bolstered by withering contempt for the mongos, pigs and suits who people their world of not-us. In the open prison of his own life he’s an old lag doing hard time. He’s seen the counselors and the programme developers come and go like spring fashions, and met them coming round again.
See him raking leaves on a winter’s day dressed in his jerkin with the broad hood shadowing his face, he’s a medieval knave locked in the margins of a Book of Hours. Sit level with him on the bench and glance at his absorbed expression as he listens to vintage reggae—he’s out there, burnin’ Babylon.
We sit on the kerb in the nuns’ garden. The brief heat draws earthy odours from the leaf-mulch we spread in the rain last week.
There is little can be said. For that reason each word seems weighted. Between them he picks up pebbles from the path and flicks randomly. I notice weeds, catch my mind flickering away to plans for spraying, bring it back. He’s talking about drawing, that he’d like to draw. I know this. Does he draw? No, can’t find the right paper—rough paper. I suggest a shop. Maybe.
a pine seedling:
plucking it without thinking
sadness pours out