She had just finished her speech

we, gathered here, out of the Dublin winter

me, as I always do, feeling out of place

as she spoke, I became fixated on the lipstick stains

on the lip of her champagne glass

to great applause she told us how the world needs art

needs poetry

needs us

now, more than ever

how words can save a life

how a brushstroke can change the world


later, I stood before a huge painting

            I had to stand somewhere after all

my hands were in my pockets and in my head

I was silently humming, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”

over and over

she appeared by my side

jolting me out of my trance

told me that it was an, “homage to Picasso”

looked at it with studied reverence

fire-engine red lipstick

high cheekbones

little twinkling gems on the side of her face

I wondered what kind of glue she used to attach them

before I looked past her, over her shoulder


there was a man

outside, looking in

his breath steaming up the gallery window

it was dark but I could see

that he was cloaked in oily homelessness

he was staring at the painting

the, “homage to Picasso”

at a man with two eyes on one side of his face

both looking the other way


the homeless man felt my gaze and, unlike myself

smiled unselfconsciously

I knew then that if he had a hold of that painting

he would tear out the canvas

and use the frame for kindling



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