The Stranger’s Face

Death disappears
when you think about it.
A living person does not become a dead person.
When you cease to be alive
the dust that housed your life just goes on being dust
but you don’t go on with it
you are no longer found
in a house of dust

unless your life was large enough
to inhabit more than one body.
In a larger life we ‘matter’ to each other
you give meaning to others who
give meaning to you.

In this larger life you know that when you lose
your nominal body you
live on as those who gave you meaning
and when one of them dies they
live on as you

which bids us ask how much can you mean
to me?
how much can I mean to you?

I have lived in cities where, like Fred Neil, I heard

everybody talking at me,
didn’t hear a word they were saying
only the echoes of my mind.
People walking, staring past me,
I didn’t see their faces
only the shadows of their eyes.

Sometimes I felt like an island in a sea of meaningless voices and faces because, like all the rest, I was just passing thru on my way to somewhere better than this world

But now I know, belatedly,
that this is the only Earth we have to live in and it will become a better place but only
if we stop and listen

to the strangers on the street, in the shops, in our houses
in our heads
and look beyond the shadows of our cold preconceptions
into each stranger’s face

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