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42 the poems

The Courtesies

What a night, and what a neighbourhood, to be out in – out and up to no good! Edge-of-town dinge and darkness, where an intermittent wind chafes leaves and litter into a listless skirmish of dancing and drives a shaft of ice straight to the bones of any creature wild enough to be chancing such a late hour. Here’s one: frail, farouche, dressed in a coat she hugs tight and too little underneath, pacing on tip-tappy heels between safety zones of lamplight, every halt and about-turn charged with a chemical mix of wariness and weariness. Here’s another: more shadowed, more in ambush, but just as strung, as he waits either to press his advantage or to retreat. It isn’t decided yet, and won’t be till certain signals are exchanged, courtesies so discreet — such a matter of fine negotiation between fearful and bold — it’s anyone’s guess whether these two night scavengers will gain the respite they long for from the persecuting cold.

Christopher Reid

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