Embankment at night, charity



BY the river
In the black wet night as the furtive rain slinks
Dropping and starting from sleep
Alone on a seat
A woman crouches.
I must go back to her.

I want to give her
Some money. Her hand slips out of the breast of
    her gown
Asleep. My fingers creep
Carefully over the sweet
Thumb-mound, into the palm's deep pouches.
So, the gift!

God, how she starts!
And looks at me, and looks in the palm of her hand!
And again at me!
I turn and run
Down the Embankment, run for my life.
But why?—why?

Because of my heart's
Beating like sobs, I come to myself, and stand
In the street spilled over splendidly
With wet, flat lights. What I've done
I know not, my soul is in strife.
The touch was on the quick. I want to forget.


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It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.