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U3A Writing: Encounter

A chance encounter leaves Barbara Tregonning wondering whether she should have behaved in a different way.

We passed each other on the broken footpath -
Such brief encounter,
Then you were gone.
I too having another appointment
Continued on.

Faster and faster my feet went
Yet could not outrun
My racing heart.
I was undone.
Until that awkward moment
My day had been serene,
Gently recording sights and sounds:
Street hawkers, donkey bells,
In panting air, pungent eastern smells.
Intrigued, and yet detached, apart,
Mind photographed the scene
For future reference on some other day
In a more antiseptic atmosphere
Where I could postulate, explain,
Have my superior say.

I had not bargained on this encounter:
Dark, pain-racked face,
Each furrow now become a deep crevasse,
Sum total of distress.
Old-young, or was it only old?
I could not guess.

But most poignant
As they carried you on that rude litter
Those clouding grief filled eyes.
Should I have turned and joined you
To make the dignity of a cortege?
I failed you.
You took me by surprise.

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