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Martha Robinson Poetry Competition 1st prize 2003

An Accident of Fate

by Louise Glasscoe

By chance I sat near him -
alone, he whispered endlessly, intensely,
laughed at jokes I could not share -
dishevelled, but not through any concession to fashion.
His beard was dull but not yet grey.
I thought of moving, the whispering so unsettling
but after a time I was soothed,
tried to guess the words, the hidden meanings.

It was a priest's confessional:
he forgave my sins, my silence, my unimaginings;
his words were the whispered rosary, inane repetitions in Latin,
the jumbled replies of a whole congregation.
When the train came to a halt
he went to the wrong side,
laughed at his mistake,
as though a whole crowd followed him around;
he corrected himself, still laughing, still gesturing.
I wondered how he knew his destination,
I struggled to see the others in his crowd.