Five Beggars

by Max Ryan

From Rainswayed Night

Light from a street lamp glances
past the curtain to a blistered wall
of my hotel room. A man’s voice
trumpets out of an alleyway:
Ram, Ram, Ram.
His cry fades as I fall
into a dream of five blind beggars.

The crowd parts as they wind through city back streets,
hurling their voices higher and higher, swinging their heads
from side to side. I’m there, caught in the rhythms
that thrash their bodies. I know their song:
this world is not real, this world is not my home.
I stare into their faces, sing out their words till I spin
on glazed white moons of their eyes.

Suddenly, I have hold of the last beggar. Voices race
over the clash of bells. My feet move faster. I try
but can’t let go. My voice unravels from their chorus
into a long shrill cry.

I wake before dawn, hold the creaky railing
down to the dim-lit street. Outside a tea shop, a man
stoops to part a hessian curtain. A dog barks
as I pass a huddle of blanket bodies.
A hiss of cymbals, voices grow louder.
Five blind beggars sway out of the night,
coming straight towards me.