Even the dogs

Weary from the crowds,
he slipped across the border for a break.
A holiday with a few close friends,
up north among the foreigners.
Different people, culture, food.
Best of all, no one knows him here.

The woman’s love
has grown achingly to despair;
such is her daughter’s illness.
Her dormant hopes quicken
when she learns the identity
of the stranger from the south.

Disregarding his request for privacy,
she intrudes, insisting that he intervene
to heal her child.
His response disappoints.
Wrong race, wrong religion.

The man offers a domestic metaphor to justify
his lack of compassion.
Sorry, I can’t help;
the food is for the children, not the dogs.

It takes our breath away.
Suddenly we hear the shrill, cheering voices
of the xenophobes, islamophobes, flag wearers,
shock jocks and opportunistic politicians.

But the story continues;
this foreign woman does not know her place.
She accepts the racial calumny,
but, with impertinence,
throws the image back at the teacher:
Yes, but even the dogs . . .

Even the dogs.
The woman, he concedes, is correct.
There are no boundaries to love
except the ones we fashion from our fears.
The man accepts his lesson with grace,
and setting aside his weariness,
offers her the crumb.

 

© Ken Rookes 2017

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