With a smile which had melted many women
he told me what he did.
“I’m a thief ”
I laughed at the joke – it wasn’t.
He had been in and around our circle a few months
summer turned to autumn
ephemera of transience – post-exams : pre career
picking fruit, pruning trees, thinning buds.
was it possible to make a living?
but not him
which led to the question.
He wasn’t a specialist, a general freelance
fashion was to blame…. something became desirable
everybody wanted it, some could pay, others not
that was where he came in – the middleman.
Insurance was a sideline : commissions and sales
scheduled burglary to remove specific items.
A deal works for both parties
for the victim a replacement
for the contractor, merchandise without inconvience.
“No”. Nobody would talk.
It was MAD : mutual assured destruction
sometimes appliances … sometimes vehicles
occasionally valuables – returned after pay out – and for a cut
he made no judgement – just provided a service.
Infinitely patient he answers all enquiries
this was a good place to operate
lots of migrants during harvest season : outsiders = blame.
He’d lived here a while now, been a sleeper the first few years
the trick was to work
and not seen to be living above station.
To my social world he brought an artist’s grace
pretty women and more wine than he drank.
A skilful conductor dulled misgiving’s notes
covered a soloist weakness with orchestra power
coaxed silent conscience into applause and ovation.
Morality refracts through time’s prism
illuminating callow impressionability
revealing admiration as artifice
and reluctance to denounce popularity.
Several years later
another town and another lifetime I am working in hospitality
I see him
and turn away before he sees me.