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  • Roxanne Noor

Child of the Streets

Updated: Apr 5

At midnight in Mumbai the air is heavy

The ocean is a dress of rippled silk

The night props its elbows on the water's surface

There's a waxy full moon quiet in the air

Across the water, the city is sequined by golden light

A string of Swarovski crystals

The locals call this glowing strip across the water

“The Queens Necklace”

My friend and I walk slowly

Passing a joint with a bit hashish 

Back and forth and back and forth

Finger pressed to thumb

Inhale and exhale

Laugh and speak, laugh and speak

A street child walks toward us

A barefooted boy

Luminous nut-brown eyes 

A protruding rib cage

Skin so dark he’s almost purple

The street child holds a bouquet of roses

Roses losing life

Gray edges claim red space

Crispy in their brittleness

The street child asks if we’d like to buy a rose

I say “no thank you” and he hears my Yankee tongue

He speaks to my friend in Hindi and says 

“You don’t need to buy my roses but can I tell you a poem?”

We say yes

In a voice clear and sharp he recites a poem in English

His eyes widen as he speaks

His little body grows rigid in attention

The cracked asphalt becomes a stage

I hear the words of Walt Whitman

Ascend from his hungry mouth

At midnight in Mumbai

A street child is alone 

Selling dying roses

So poor he can’t afford shoes

He recites a poem from memory

He glows a bit brighter

He stands a bit taller

He looks a bit wiser

And I know why art is important

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