Troubadour, but not the piping boy
Strolling mediaeval landscapes,
Or a vibrant dancer,
Seductive with scarves and flares,
At rustic fairs.

This minstrel stalks a different tradition,
Born not of romance but of aged necessity,
Her pitch cruelly reduced to scuffed doorways
On the pitted marble pavements of Mantua.

Straight backed, with grey hair flying,
Make-up cracked and lipstick smeared,
The troubadour stamps and plays –
Her cardboard accordion pummelled by wizened fingers,
While sprung puppets attached to her feet
Leer hand painted grins at the crowd
And dance their jesters’ conceit.

Children, briefly arrested by the scene,
Quickly shrink away,
Perturbed by her gap toothed smiles of encouragement
And the grotesque underbelly of city streets.

For a second, she snatches my poet’s gaze
With eyes as sharp as a rat,
Defying me to drop a coin into her rusting tin.
Hush money delivered, I gather my embarrassment
And shuffle on like the rest.

It should not be like this
But it is.

Barbara Lawton

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