It's a golden dreamy gift of a day,
light winking in the slanting sunlight,
mums and babes in a scrap of playground,
me with my little dog safe on-lead,
walking the park, our rhythms gentle.
I see them coming, closing in,
a black mutt, thick-necked, roaming free,
his master, taut in his tight-ass jeans.
And I softly ask if his dog is safe?
It's a trigger for a mouthful of ripe abuse,
spitting contempt as he moves towards me -
a privileged stranger with her poncy dog,
an alien in his tribal world.
Paranoia rises, a default position
with my heartbeat surging,
fogging the brain
as they always have done
with my long-held memories of
brawls and bullies,
a chemistry of anger in the rugged Port.
And true to his breed, this man smells fear.
He threatens. I counter.
But it's still just words -
till he pulls a knife,
and I lose my cool.
Ghosts of the past dumped, dissolved.
I face him, reckless, unafraid,
fully complicit with my own anger flaring,
a boiling brew of scars not healed,
volatile, bold, my street cred rising,
bursting with the old expletives.
'Old' he taunts me, taken aback.
But he knows this code, and I don't care.
It's my dog I fight for,
and his eyes are softening
as I fire off volleys of savage stories,
where dogs like his lunge, attack.
I've seen them rip throats
in wild abandon.
I've heard piercing screams
from careless owners,
men and dogs going down quick
in a final, ferocious, bloody mess.
And he backs off, slowly understanding.
as I follow him, defiant, 'cos I'm not done yet.
And he slows down, listens.
Now we can talk.
It's no Jane Austen novel
in these grizzled streets.
The stale smell of need lingers on,
in dogs and men in their show of rage;
mine too, perhaps, as I walk our park.
© Barbara Boyd-Anderson
Barbara Boyd-Anderson is an Australian poet. Formerly a teacher, then a film-maker, she focuses now on poetry and the rich, varied world of