“I heard upon his dry dung heap
That man cry out who cannot sleep:
If God is God, he is not good,
If God is good he is not God,
Take the even, take the odd,
I would not sleep here if I could.”
— Archibald Macleish, J.B.
An albino boy, untouchable, face blank, on his knees
sweeps the floor of the train.
he has no broom, only the web of his hands; he will
stretch his arms wide, then cup
scraps, wrappers for crisps (not
chips), the dust and dirt of
a glorious past, into a pile,
a hill, a heap.
An albino Dalit, no more than six
years old; child and curse and curiosity;
human trash turned into a human broom. He
doesn’t wait long for your coins,
should you drop one his way, but will move on
back bent, arms outstretched, resembling prayer.
And you, who will lecture your companions
on this backwards caste system, who will
count among your worst sins loving a woman
just long enough to burn three CDs of hers
you’d always wanted to own, you who has
written reports and case studies, and who
has told many a child’s story so there
might be no more of this, you will do nothing.
Nothing but talk. Your arms do not stretch.
Not to this child, who is curse and curiosity.
There are reasons, structural and otherwise
And you will cite some best practice, speak to cutural
relativism and co-opting, some obscure
footnote. Yes, you will do nothing but talk.
The train will move, the child will move on,
a song in your ear will remind you of the woman
you stole it from, the royalties that still go
unpaid to a man who already has too much money,
but protests anyway. A man who should know better
But you should know better, too. You who lectures
on heartlessness who has nothing to give. You who
was passed by before you could make it go: the
clink of a coin. You, still talking.