The Child

Poem ‘The Child’

A December night
pale light stole through
and amidst this
I walked down the cold street
the fog setting in the scene
the fingers numb and aching
I slid into my pocket
reached for the packet
and lighted a cigarette
“don’t do that uncle!!”
I was amazed at the whisper
thought it was wind
or perhaps a leave’s rustling
“please don’t !!”
the weak voice was louder this time
and as I tried to look through the cold
and the fog
I realized a mass
mass of tattered clothes and bare skin
pressed under a big basket
placed upon his head
moving slowly on and on
I looked at the face
which betrayed the hint of being once-handsome
a hint of being once-pretty
just like all others kids
but then cruelly and forcefully
turned into an adult’s face
the skin losing all the tenderness
taut and dry
yet the eyes –
the eyes shimmering with a retained innocence
glowing of some unknown passion
I put off my cigarette
bent down
and pulled his cheeks
cold as death they were
and they did run shivers down my spine
“why.. what brings you out son??”
I asked him
“on such a cold night”
“nothing but the search for bread”
he replied with simplicity
though i could see something
perhaps tears
glimmering tintly in his eyes
as his breathes dissolved into thin air
I bought off all the boiled eggs
took off the coat which burnt my skin now
and let it hide my conscience
and his bare skin
his face shone with an angelic glow
and as his pale lips moved again
I heard him say
thank you uncle
and his lips curved into a smile
It seemed heavens have dawned angels onto earth
I kissed his forehead
pulled his cheeks again
and I felt the warmth of life resuming into them
I heard a faint melody
as his footsteps fainted into the fog
and this once
I didn’t call it a whisper of wind
neither the whoosh of a tree
but the singing of my heart !!

Salman Altaf

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