I often pause to think of others

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I often pause to think of others.
Like the couple on Beak Street I saw leaning
in against the March wind, pinching
still-fitting 1970’s smeary gabardine
mackintoshes around them like over-stuffed
sausage casings.

He; gaunt and with that sunken on-the-way
from this life look, she; rotund and
waddling with cheap home perm flattened
under a clear plastic penny market rain
hood whilst her free hand drags a
shopping trolley between them both like
an unruly and unwilling square tartan-coated pet.

She chose to wear those opaque tan tights
and they are so cliche, aren’t they,
with her seen-better-days blue brogue comfortable shoes
which shuffle shuffle and scuff along
next to the groceries and the gray nearly-ghost.

He looks like a man who has resolved to
hang on a day longer if he can, for her
sake, or for someone’s sake if not hers.
I’m sure it’s not for his.

His gaping-mouthed breath, like it
must sound loud enough to startle although
the bus window and the rattle of empty seats
mask it from me, sucks his cheeks in and out
with the effort and I see his eyes scrunch
up unseen as he keeps up her pace which he taps
out with a walking stick, stomp, stomp,
stomp like he is grinding out cigarette butts
with every step.

To where and why do they walk so painfully
in this bouncing rain?  What are their
names?  Is this yesterday’s sour wine of
relationships I see through the dragon puff
of diesel exhaust or a glorious culmination?
Or perhaps mainly their reality, unpoetic and
unremarkable except to someone like me who
often pauses to think of others.

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