Busker - Marie O’Nette

In bowler hat, with shoulders bowed, he plays
a ukulele while he blows, with zest,
into a silver fife attached
to a wire harness nursing on his chest,
tunes to beguile the stream of passers-by.
Deep lines zig-zag across his leathered brow,
the threadbare coat is greasy, stained and patched,
his eyes, pale-blue, are watchful underneath
a hat-brim as he swings this way and that.
A small crowd gathers, children point and laugh.
A woman tourist takes a photograph.

Around his wrist a weathered leather strap
controls two tiny puppets at his feet
who prance with uncoordinated glee
as he, when younger, to the crazy beat
of frantic music, might have done
in streets like this, at closing-time, amok
with coursing blood, adrenaline and joy.
Beneath the town clock’s cold, unblinking eye,
the puppets twitch and jig for strings and fife.
No star, this man: he keeps the company of dolls.
Into his upturned cap the conscience-coinage falls.

Marie O’Nette

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