, , , , , , , ,

Woman with a past
cut from the edge of the park
and entered through the side door
like she’s been here before

rocks around her fingers and
hanging from her neck
scintillating with the light
of the lobby chandeliers
like pure power
with a hint of perfume and
of principles picked up and
dusted off and
of money internally laundered
through self-forgiveness

because she’s always been
this strong but wasn’t always
this beautiful

and she remembers this lobby
from a day gone by,
holds the deferring gazes
of the concierges ever respectful
who don’t remember her from
when she first came, just
as elegantly dressed and
gave them the number of the room
to be escorted where
the man waited inside
with a glass of water and Viagra
on the small table by the bed
and a wad of bills in an envelope
tucked in one of the
Egyptian cotton pillowcases,
the staggering amount meant
to rescue her from debt, where
her dreams had led her to leap but
she failed to land on her feet

he had a harem of girls
much prettier and younger than she,
girls who would in a few years
graduate from college and move on
to better lives and erase him
from memory, but he left them
to be with her that day because
she was a friend and
had asked him for help, though
he couldn’t think of anything
of hers that he needed but
didn’t want to hold her
in debt over something he had
too much of anyway

when it was over she walked
the walk of shame through
Salon de Ning and Café Escolta
repeating to herself that
every woman is a whore,
when you get right down to it,
we all sleep with men in exchange
for other kinds of favors, say
a sense of security, or some
compliment that gave us
butterflies and a few sleepless nights

the world as she saw it
changed from that day;
at that point in her life when
none of her friends were able,
or willing, to come to her aid
on the day before they almost
put her behind bars for
writing a bad cheque, if
it weren’t for this man,
good is no longer this pure and
shiningly perfect thing that
triumphed over some stereotyped evil,
but something that survived and
made it through to the end, albeit
bloodied and covered in scratches

and she womaned up to life,
ate the fruit of that quid pro quo
with unabashed hunger and extracted
the seeds and sowed them
and never once took the trees they
grew into for granted

and now she is standing on
that marble floor like a madame,
in the same hotel for
a business transaction more subtle,
though more noble, perhaps
is still a different story

“The Songbird Awaits the Dawn”
by photographer Photocillin