The Stand-in Girl

Come to think of it, I have only seen
Her silent moments
Contemplating her brittle youth,
Eyes turned to faraway thoughts
Where she never knowingly subscribed
To this mild-manner imitation of servitude.

Some second-rate Mephistopheles
Offered this deal, surely, but what
She forfeits to her temporary masters
Can hardly be sufficient for what is
Given in return.

What deal is this?
What passes for a year of life?

Her bedroom light remains
Past the hour when darkness eases
Its heavy weight, or so I guess:
I never look, just wonder,
Imagining all the nights she spends
Enclosed there, cradling a mobile,
A tit-for-tat of traded cries until
A toddler stirs
She must go,
Must she,
Until it ends?

One late afternoon I saw her beating
Stubborn tiredness, washed sheets
Against the railings upon the balcony.
Another morning she leads and trails
Her charges through winding streets.
Adrift, unmoored, we cross unnoticed.

Does she smile?
Not even, I think, when a taxi departs
Bearing her away this one night,
Though I may have read
Relief on those lips,
But for the fickle patterns of the light.

(20 February 2015)

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