Desert Stop at Noon
The house is one bare room
And only tea is served.
The old man, mild, reserved,
Shuffles into a gloom
Where mattresses are laid.
I sip, grateful for the cool shade.
His small son watches me,
Approaches, pertly smiles.
I know that thirty miles
Without a house or tree
Surround their crumbling shack.
I drink again, relax, smile back.
Water? And the boy’s mother?
Both seem impossible –
Yet here my glass is full;
If I ask for another
The boy brings bitter tea
Then grins gap-toothed and begs from me.
And love? Impertinence
To ask. I could not grieve,
Born here, to have to leave:
But he, a man, years hence,
His life elsewhere, may weep
With need to see his father sleep
Again, as now he does,
In careless honesty –
Too old for courtesy –
Oblivious of us.
I pay, and leave the shade,
The dark recess these lives have made.
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