A babe in the woods

wandering down Ponsonby
in a brand new tracksuit
purchased by Lord knows who
parents long gone
not looking competent enough
to have ever bred
looking 75+
rolled into 60 years
of hard living and
with 10 more lost
to the lithium and
clozapine

he passes us by
sipping on our flat whites

I tell Heaven he looks naked
with his arms clutched
to his chest
like a bird yet to grow feathers
fallen from its nest—
with that wide-eyed,
glazed-over gaze lolling
back, twisted over his shoulder–

a babe in the woods

Heaven says he grins cheekily
at her sometimes
like he remembers
being young for a second
like she’s someone
he was competent with once…
and then he’s lost again

he’s lost a lot of weight
Heaven says he’s looking good,
well, as good as he’s ever looked
in a long while, and
I want to believe
something’s changed for the better
but all things considered
it’s probably cancer…
all he can do is wander

he wanders across the road
looking back twisted,
over his shoulder—
the wrong way—
and a truck swerves
he tugs at his pants
so loose now,
he tugs at all the lost weight

no matter how hard
we work at it
how competent we grow
no matter how many friends we win
how many people we influence
it breaks my heart
to see him every time

he reminds me of us

we all enter
and exit this world
naked
helpless as birds
yet to grow feathers

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