Frail as smoke, she drifts through the crowded train, bringing with her the cold ashes of poverty. Without a word, her bruise-blue eyes try to niggle each passenger to part with coins or a note.
The sign pleads her story: Three children in foster care. Like promises of happier times, some passengers toss hard-edged confetti at her, before hiding behind newspapers or over-loud conversations. Others dismiss her like an errant child with swift, silent shakes of their heads.
I look at her canescent face and know I have seen her before, on a grey, Sydney day in George Street. ‘Homeless, hungry, and cold’ her sign read then, as she curled like a cloud on the footpath near Town Hall.
In the dusk of a blustery day, people, toting bags emblazoned with designer labels, walked past. Their gaze sliding away from her like water, they turned toward the nimbus of lights across the street, glittering like angels in the trees.
I walked on too, then wished I had turned back. But the tide flowed against me. With nothing else to give I came home and wrote a poem.