A candle was burning in the caravan
Parked where three roads forked beside a mound
Of broken bottles near a market town.
A woman was tottering home
With a bundle of children’s clothes and a loaf of bread
After closing time.
A camp-fire in the ditch was dying out.

She peeped into the tent and heard her children breathe.
A nightjar drummed on the moor.
The wagon door was bolted. Why had he shut her out?
A bantam cock on the axle tree
Opened his eyes and crowed.
She peered through a smirched pane of glass,
Fell on the ground and screamed.

A candle was burning beside the bed
Spilling wax on the table, guttering in the draught.
A man was kneeling naked
Over a naked child
Offering her his penis to play with like a toy.
Hearing a noise outside
He quickly stubbed the candle flame with his thumb.

A whippet chained to the axle growled.
A child woke in the wattle tent, and cried “Mammy!”
The caravan leaned silently as a tombstone
Over the woman lying prone on the mud
Weeping. What should she do?
The breeze tugged at a skirt hung on a thorn to dry.
She staggered down the road to fetch the guards.

This Issue

November 29, 1973