The Old Lady

August rain drops tumble onto London pavements.

Listen hard and you can hear a million umbrellas unfurl out of tube station exits,

under anthracite skies office workers trudge to joyless towers lit by flickering computer screens

I sit outside a cafe at Notting Hill Gate, genteel Notting Hill sheltering from the rain

An old lady rough sleeper shuffles by my table, reeking of stale old lady piss.

She pauses for a moment that turns to eternity as she rests her hand on my table.

The smell of her soaks into me,  I try to stop myself retching, wishing only she would go away,

I stare at her gnarly hand, long twisted fingers, nails caked in grime.

She asks me if I have a cigarette, and I lie, holding mine up I say sorry last one.

Her gaze fixes on me, tired eyes filled with forgetfulness and I know she’s seen through me.

I finish my coffee and leave her leaning on the table for support.

Skulking away to cold am I to make her passage more gentle with a cigarette or a few coins

On I walk, certain that if anyone looks at me they will see

my humanity dripping like the august rain

that collects on London pavements 

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