The healer

 

 

He was homeless,
Black of skin,
Cracked around the lips, the mouth,
Cracked between the fingers
Chafed at the feet
Raw and swollen,
Whole body
Stained by the weather,
From lack of water
To soothe it,
From lack of warmth
To heal it.

She was a healer.
Long black hair,
Pans of brown rice
Simmering,
Bowls of thick soup
Left with kind notes.
For who were we to her?
Just passers by,
Just passers through.

Candles would appear
Flickering in the bathroom,
Flickering
In the darkened hallway,
Sense of luxury,
Of healing,
Would drift upwards
From the basement,
Sandalwood and bergamot,
The light delicacy of rose and neroli,
The warm tones of jasmine,
Patchouli and geranium.

He was homeless,
Eyes vacant,
Dulled, yellowed from impoverishment,
From suffering
Never spoken of,
Suffering never asked about.

The basement
Was oblong, narrow, low-ceilinged,
Painted red, gold, plush,
A futon on the floor
Its centrepiece,
Awaiting those tired aching bodies,
Tight necks and burdened shoulders.
Screens stood,
With draped silken fabrics,
Magenta jade, pale ochre,
The room declared
Her passion,
Her warmth,
Her giving.

He was homeless,
No possessions,
No suitcase,
No rucksack,
No collection of carrier bags,
Just a brown tattered raincoat,
An insufficient scarf
For those bitter archway winds,
His shoes were like
Slippers made of leather,
Holes where his toes came through,
No socks this year.

I would hear him
Coming in at unknown hours,
Quietly clicking the front door shut,
Creaking down,
To the scents of the basement,
Down to its warmth,
Down to its healing,
Down to the love
She left behind her.

She was a healer.
I would hear her chanting
Late at night,
First thing in the morning,
Long and strong.
I didn't understand
Its intention, its devotion,
It would annoy me sometimes
As I tried to get to sleep
After another day
Of to-ing and fro-ing
Down those long narrow streets
To the tube,
In that slushy,
Snowy, black-iced winter,
And so I'd turn over,
Turn on the radio
To soothe myself
And wait
Until the slightly unnerving sound faded.

He was homeless,
No possessions,
But around his neck,
On a piece of string,
To keep it safe,
To keep him safe,
Was a single belonging,
Metal, brass,
Round and flat,
Jagged at its edges,
Worth nothing more
Than a pound or two,
But to him,
Him...
She'd given him
The key to her house,
She'd given him
The key to her house.

I look back and I cry at it all,
I look back with understanding,
And I long to go back there,
To listen,
To know him,
And above all
To offer
Whatever he needed.
She was a healer
And he was homeless
And I
Just passing through
Just passing through

Just passing through...