The Woman That You Pass By

A poem by Pat O'Cotter

My trade was old when the world was new,
Ere the pyramids rose by the Nile
Men quitted their wives, and gave me their goods
For the warmth of my kiss, and my smile.
For never was wife who could hold her man
By the honeymoon's afterglow
Did I veil mine eyes and beckon to him,
God's truth, and 'tis you who know.

My trade was old when the world was new,
Long ere Caesar ruled in Rome,
To spend their gold in a harlot's cell
Patricians quitted home.
And high born dames since the world began
Have learned to sit and to sigh
And to patiently wait for their lords to leave
The woman that you pass by.

I'm only a pawn in the game called life,
Yet I take what you never could hold;
I garner the kisses you'd barter life for
And with them, I gather your gold.
I garner the best of your manhood's prime
Then quit them when shattered in health;
I bring to heel the ones that you love
And smiling I shear them of wealth.

To garner the wealth that you hold in store
I must keep me surpassing fair,
For the life that I lead is an open book
And the game that I deal is square.
Stop--think of the maids and wives you know
As you drift thru life's subtle game--
How many are dealing as straight as I?
How many can say the same?

You give your all, and you slave your life
In a struggle to hold one man;
You think you're paid if he call you wife
And be true to you for a span.
You keep his house and you bear his child
And you walk with your head held high
But most of his love, and his kisses go
To the woman that you pass by.

The favors you give, I sell for gold,
And men prize what costs them high;
You never will learn that love goes out
With the tear in a woman's eye;
That the patient drudge who sits at home
And learns to save and to mend
Can never hold the light of love
But is doomed to lose in the end.

So I follow the old dishonored trade,
Bedecked in garments fine,
And the cream of the earth is saved for me
In raiment and food and wine.
And life to me is a merry game
Tho, sometimes, I weep and sigh,
For deep down in your heart, do you envy me
The woman that you pass by?

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