A dark girl, quite poor, who might have been four,
leaned on a statue of a horse and his man.
(The rider rode him in place, but as if in a race.)
Her dress needed patching, her heart needed smoothing.
She’d tried to sell matches all the cold night,
but none noted her plight 'til up to her came
a blond boy who was lame.
"Can you sell those, you think, for some food and
warm drink?" asked the boy who was bigger, and
dressed slightly better, but dirty as well. He’d
apples to sell.
"No, not a one. I want to be done."
Tears plopped from her eyes,
left streaks on her cheeks.
"Have an apple, why don't you? I've still these two."
The boy gave the waif his well-polished
fruit and a back-pat to boot.
"Do you two like that horse? He's my favorite of
course," said a girl, almost grown, also out on her
own. Her eye was blacked but she'd a warm coat and
hat. "I come here at night, when my Dad's fists
fight. Whiskey's his curse and he's home getting
worse." She pulled the tot to her lap with a plop,
and claimed the lad's hand. One's smile warmed
another's, till all three loved each other.
The horse, soot-streaked marble, was truly a marvel.
His coat livened to touch. His head tossed
with his snort. The soldier stretched, laughed,
and fetched the big girl and little. He soothed them
to settle in front of his saddle. Then he scooped up
the boy (who whooped high with joy) and put him
behind him and they all fit just fine.
The horse stamped his feet, whinnied,
and leaped as far as the stars.
By and by they arrived at the dawn of a day
in a place deep in memory, where, so happily,
they stayed on with others who’d
been far lost, woozy with poverty,
and froze by the frost. Graced, none found hurt,
meanness, or dirt, became grown-ups
who cared and children who shared.
I cried hard and long
when first told -
all wrong-about the Matchgirl's
fate. Mama held me, quite late.