Afflicted and Unafflicted on Fifth Avenue, New York
(from An Answer to Exile)
Today a tow-away truck
Towed away a green and silver Cadillac
Illegally parked at the junction of Thirty Fourth Street
And Fifth Avenue.
As it moved off
Incongruously hitched to its inferior's posterior
The owners (man, woman, two children)
Arrived in time
To see their thirty thousand dollars illusion of security
The woman wailed on the man's shoulder
The children wailed clutching their mother's skirt.
Passers-by passed by.
One snorted in angry disgust:
"They have little to cry about.
Suppose they were in famine-afflicted Africa
Bomb-afflicted Northern Ireland
Leprosy-afflicted leper colonies
Earthquake-afflicted earthquake areas
Typhoon-afflicted typhoon areas?
Then they'd have something to cry about.
Yet the woman's tears were as real
As those of a woman in Northern Ireland
Had just been blown to bits.
The children's tears as real
As those of orphans
In Africa or India
Beside their parents' mute indifferent corpses.
The man's upper lip
Stiff as that of a blindfolded captured Freedom-Fighter
In other words torture
From other Freedom-Fighters
Because he happened to get caught
In the wrong place
At the wrong time.
Misfortune isn't something
Strangers can measure.
Every misfortune is personal
And every misfortune
Is a death as real as real death.
Admittedly the couple in New York
Will get their car back
After payment of a hefty fine.
But life will never again be fine
As they liked to believe it was
Before this misfortune.
For them as for all other victims
Of the uncodified Law of Averages
Menace will always menace.
Seeing things in their proper perspective
Is the improper privilege
Of the Unafflicted.
© 1977 Basil Payne