“Maria, lonely prostitute on a street of pain,
You, at least, hail me and speak to me
While a thousand others ignore my face.
You offer me an hour of love,
And your fees are not as costly as most.
You are the madonna of the lonely,
The first-born daughter in a world of pain.
You do not turn fat men aside,
Or trample on the stuttering, shy ones,
You are the meadow where desperate men
Can find a moment’s comfort.

Men have paid more to their wives
To know a bit of peace
And could not walk away without the guilt
That masquerades as love.
You do not bind them, lovely Maria, you comfort them
And bid them return.
Your body is more Christian than the Bishop’s
Whose gloved hand cannot feel the dropping of my blood.
Your passion is as genuine as most,
Your caring as real!

But you, Maria, sacred whore on the endless pavement of pain,
You, whose virginity each man may make his own
Without paying ought but your fee,
You who know nothing of virgin births and immaculate conceptions,
You who touch man’s flesh and caress a stranger,
Who warm his bed to bring his aching skin alive,
You make more sense than stock markets and football games
Where sad men beg for virility.
You offer yourself for a fee–and who offers himself for less?

At times you are cruel and demanding–harsh and insensitive,
At times you are shrewd and deceptive–grasping and hollow.
The wonder is that at times you are gentle and concerned,
Warm and loving.
You deserve more respect than nuns who hide their sex for eternal love;
Your fees are not so high, nor your prejudice so virtuous.
You deserve more laurels than the self-pitying mother of many children,
And your fee is not as costly as most.

Man comes to you when his bed is filled with brass and emptiness,
When liquor has dulled his sense enough
To know his need of you.
He will come in fantasy and despair, Maria,
And leave without apologies.
He will come in loneliness–and perhaps
Leave in loneliness as well.
But you give him more than soldiers who win medals and pensions,
More than priests who offer absolution
And sweet-smelling ritual,
More than friends who anticipate his death
Or challenge his life,
And your fee is not as costly as most.

You admit that your love is for a fee,
Few women can be as honest.
There are monuments to statesmen who gave nothing to anyone
Except their hungry ego,
Monuments to mothers who turned their children
Into starving, anxious bodies,
Monuments to Lady Liberty who makes poor men prisoners.
I would erect a monument for you–
who give more than most–
And for a meager fee.

Among the lonely, you are perhaps the loneliest of all,
You come so close to love
But it eludes you
While proper women march to church and fantasize
In the silence of their rooms,
While lonely women take their husbands’ arms
To hold them on life’s surface,
While chattering women fill their closets with clothes and
Their lips with lies,
You offer love for a fee–which is not as costly as most–
And remain a lonely prostitute on a street of pain.

You are not immoral, little Maria, only tired and afraid,
But you are not as hollow as the police who pursue you,
The politicians who jail you, the pharisees who scorn you.
You give what you promise–take your paltry fee–and
Wander on the endless, aching pavements of pain.
You know more of universal love than the nations who thrive on war,
More than the churches whose dogmas are private vendettas made sacred,
More than the tall buildings and sprawling factories
Where men wear chains.
You are a lonely prostitute who speaks to me as I pass,
And I smile at you because I am a lonely man.”

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