Old man at his window

Painting by Modigliani



Neat little house,
Pavement swept in front,
Clean net curtains.
At an open window, an old man
Elbows resting on the sill, chin in hands.
He watches without seeing, the world pass his door,
Blue eyes, bright and empty,
Seeking a reflection perhaps, to fill them.
Once whipcord wiry,
He is frail now, bones as brittle as the white hair
That flutters dry and thin in the breeze.
I wonder, is he watching for her,
A sign, a word, a white hand waving?
Does the light breeze carry the sound of her voice,
And does he listen for the ring of her familiar step?
From the great sadness that sits in his eyes,
Blue and empty as oceans,
His face, immobile as he sifts the city sounds,
I would say he watches and listens in vain.

The old man and the river



The old man sleeps rough

and stands for hours watching

the play of light and half-light

on the ripple-patterned water.

Banks of leaves of red and gold

drift crisp and dry against his shoes

as he stands to watch beneath the clouds

the ripples in the river.


Along the bank the squabbling gulls

dip and dive to snatch at bits of bread.

Their noisy brilliance sleek and white

hangs bright against the grey of rainy skies

a short-lived dance that curtseys to the wind

while the dimpling water ripples on and on.


Seasons change and chill winds blow

and sunlight’s pale as ice and glacier-cold.

Still he stands among the leaves

to watch the endless river pass

with wind-drawn patterns on its skin

and narrow shadows cast by drifting birds.


Above his head beyond the blue

in the silent darkness filled with stars

the great wheel turns and turns and turns,

rolling from sky to unseen sky

with rivers of comets in its wake.

He stands and watches time flow by

his feet the pivot of the universe.