Cuba Street

We’re about to go into Olive Cafe –
it’s dark and cars are taking
the middle of the road slowly –
when he tips, drunk, out of a black doorway.

Grinning, he takes each step as though
walking on logs across a river,
his arms swing round in front of him
like an ape.

‘I can juggle,’ he says, ‘taught
by my father who was taught
by his mother
who had gypsy blood.

‘This,’ he says, pushing up his sleeve
then stumbling sideways as though
he’d given himself a punch in the jaw,
‘this is a gypsy symbol’
a kind of cartwheel in black on his forearm.

He looks up at us from his
half-pitched stance
a tent with no frame
someone asleep inside.

A young woman with dreadlocks
and filigree clothes
hands him three juggling balls
calls him Man

reminds me of the English girl
on her way from somewhere to somewhere
who sat by our fire, told stories
of working at music festivals and fairs –
how my quiet daughter shone, considering this.

He throws a yellow juggling ball
over his shoulder and steps
heavily towards us to gain some balance.
My daughter smiles at the show

smiles at the fragile girl in the delicate clothes.
I put one arm out
clumsily, from my own dark doorway

and guide us inside the cafe.

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