Red Dog Row, or The Eye

I was down in the slum area of Wellington.
I came down here often.

We called it the slum area
but no one really lived here,
unless you counted a couple of winos and
homeless people
who came for shelter.

It was mainly brothels, and an old theatre,
which had been left partially demolished
behind the street front.

Someone was usually working down here
at some time of the day,
tearing down another wall,
taking out plumbing fittings
and copper wiring.

It amounted to little more than the shells
of the old buildings.

Most lacked roofs.
Although there were sheltered places
under overhangs.

And you could pass from one building
to the next without going through a single door.
(The doors had gone to demo yards years before.)

You could go from the black and white
tiled floor of the theatre foyer,
around the back of the old commercial kitchen,
which still had a street frontage –

it was a Japanese restaurant
(they were Korean but they liked you to think
they were Japanese and the place was always
packed with young guys with no shirts,

as if it was the local Asian pick-up joint –
it was hard to know who worked there
and who didn’t) –

you climbed over a low wall
and there was a rectangular pit.
It was open to the sky
and had filled with rain water.

Then you went, through a series of black enamel
door-frames, into an old department store.
Some entrepreneurial locals had made this
into a stage where bands sometimes played.

You crossed a courtyard with tables made
from wooden cable spools and milk and beer
crates for chairs and you passed into a broken
maze of rooms and hallways.

These were the remains of the brothels.
I’d got bored with the international comedy act
and wandered away.

It sounded like it was over now.
A quiet had come down over the whole slum area.

I saw patches of stars above
and used my cellphone light
to find my way through the labyrinth.

There were banisters and no stairs,
sudden breaks in the walls which,
down a half floor,
gave onto other rooms
in another building.

It was to one of these rooms I was drawn.
The light attracted me.
It was mauve and green, with a stripe
of baby blue where the colours met.

It must have been coming in
off neon signs from the street behind.
There was a bed in the room.

I stopped.
I held my cellphone out
over the room and took a snap.

Withdrawing my arm from the gap in the wall,
I had a look at my photo.
On the bed lay a blond woman.

One eye was turned up towards me,
its white showing.
It was the eye of a startled horse.

I ran and tripped
and ran again.

I could hear whoever it was chasing me.
I glanced at the photo on my phone.

The coloured light I’d wanted to get a shot of
wasn’t the thing you saw.
It was the eye.

It still stared at me,
the eye of the blond woman.
It shone in the room.

I kept on running.
I wished that by deleting the photo
I could erase the fact
of having taken it.

Whoever it was
who was chasing me
knew it could not be erased.

I’d been seen.
She’d seen me.

That was enough.
It made me run.