With a careworn expression
He pointed softly
At the tin of powdered milk
On the conveyor belt
“how much is that ?”

The supermarket shelves
Had huge varieties of items
But not of powdered milk
I’d found only
A few dented tins
On a dark and empty shelf

He was Indian
Yet he was adrift in the aisle
Clinging to hope somehow

The till girl put his items
Through the register
He didn’t have enough money
he returned
very basic foodstuffs
Keeping a large tin of oil
for his family
And an energy drink
for himself

-Leaving the isle of dogs
-Train ride home
A small young Indian girl
Was on the phone

“Don’t you dare be rude to me
I’ve not been rude to you

You give yourself away
Talking to those you can’t trust

Telling everyone on WhatsApp
Your business

I don’t want to know your business
You’ll get people put in prison,” she said

She defended herself
She was not rude, she said
And it was believable
She was about 16 years old
Struggling to keep her feet on the ground

I imagined a boy not much older than she
Poorly dressed in dirty sports clothes
His life muddied by drug use

My stop came
Before I left
I looked at her
Slumped over the front seat
Of the carriage
Digging in

More men than women
Die from covid
Can you explain why
Said the interviewer
To the minister
He had no clear answer

Men are trying to be men
Men are trying to be men
In a world
That takes men
And puts them through the grinder
It’s in the culture

The poorest men
Without the means to be like men
Turn to drink and drugs
And fighting with the police

Or watching their families go hungry
Their brothers go to prison

The poorest of men
Who are expected to act like men
How can they
When they are given
Only dog bones to gnaw on
No wonder
That women out live them

Rocks in my soul
A storm in my heart
You can fix my brain
So I can think like you
Ignoring the pain
In all that I do

What’s it like
To think like you
Take the tablets
That is all
That you need to do

I don’t need
Stones in my pockets
To drown myself
In the sea
The water level rises
With its chain weeds
Around me

Comes in patches
Long and short
Big and small
Like pools in the path of life
Comes with the darkness
With the taking away
Of basic needs
Like a light switch
A full cereal box
A phone call

The history channel
Clings to the Second World War
Like programme gold

Last evening
A documentary
About the battle
Of El Alemein

An elderly interviewee
Sat in his living room
With a bust of Montgomery
On his window shelf

In his army clothes
A Scottish regiment
With a tam-o-shanter
Placed carefully
On his head

He was supposed to talk
About his experiences
In the desert
He started with his friends death
And how he loved his friend
And how he missed his friend

Then he cried and tried
To control his feelings
But as he tried to continue
To speak
He cried and cried
Even more

In the last scene
The last post
Of the documentary

He stands at his front door
Medals across his chest
A brave smile on his face
And waves goodbye
He turns to go in
He is bent with age
He turns his head back
One last time
One last time
And waves again

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