My Daughter Waits by the Door by Mir Mahfuz Ali

We live on a council estate, my daughter and I.
Nine years old, but she looks much younger.
She has not yet learnt to read the minds

and the motives of our neighbours. It’s a month
now since they stopped playing with her,
Heather, Helen, Edmond and Simon.

When I bring her home from school she
doesn’t take off her jacket, but waits.
When a breeze whistles past the house

she opens the blue door with a smile
to see whether anybody waits outside
asking her to play on the reckless street

smothered in hostile dust; but no-one is there.
A long emptiness howls like a mad dog
chained in unknown hatred at the gate.

Her heart hardens like the weary
paving stones. Nobody comes
to soften my daughter’s fallen spirit.

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