poetryrepairs #241 v17.10:110

SUE LITTLETON : The Beggars of Buenas Aires
: The Children
: On the Bus

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The Children

No adult in sight, they are everywhere, these children of all ages, both sexes, sometimes neatly dressed, sometimes in grubby tatters, holding out dirty little hands, chirping “Una moneda, señora? A few are blonde and fair skinned, But most are brown with bowl-cut straight black hair and dulled onyx eyes. In front of my apartment building a beautiful little girl about nine years old, wearing a typical school backpack, dark curls framing her pale face, freckles splashed across her pert nose, asks me politely if I will give her “una moneda.” As I press a peso into her hand, I blurt, unaware as yet that she is a beggar per se, “Why aren’t you in school, querida? She blinks, licks her chapped lips. “ My mother ran away and left all five of us with my grandmother, and she sends us out to ask for money so we can eat,” the child answers me, truthfully or not, probably surprised that I give a damn. This is the country I love, where I came as a young bride; this is the city I love, birthplace of my children and my grandchildren. No, I cannot reject the demands of the beggars. Their faces remind me of the country where I was born, at the height of the Great Depression, protected by family values. As a young woman I had a job and an income. I know how adverse circumstances, lack of interest, privation, indifference to the plight of age and youth, even just plain bad luck, can drag anyone down. So I allot my small contributions here and there, ignoring the negative comments, the criticism implied and spoken by my more blasé Argentine friends, wondering just how to translate clearly for them, “There, but for the grace of God, go we all.”

poetryrepairs #241 v17.10:110





On the Bus

I often rode the city buses; one afternoon a flat-faced, flabby, middle-aged woman got on at the stop in front of a large hospital. She was dressed in a shabby hospital robe and felt slippers. Taking a seat at the very front of the bus, she began to laugh dementedly. As we stared in dismay, the other passengers and I realized she was not laughing, she was sobbing, tears spurting from her eyes, spilling down her cheeks. “Please help me,” she moaned, “I have never begged before, but I am sick, I have no money! Please, please . . . “ I found myself cringing in my seat, averting my eyes in horrified shame. Suddenly, such naked, despairing anguish was unbearable. I stumbled from the bus at the next stop.

poetryrepairs #241 v17.10:110



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The Children

On the Bus

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