I park the car,
turn off the wipers,
stand in the rain a while to get my bearings,
then collect a trolley.
You look up and nod
your head half hidden in your parka’s sodden fur
as the automatic doors part –
my smile hidden by the mask.
Can you see it in my eyes?
Do you care?
I push on, brisk in my search
for life’s necessities – Brie, wine, washing up liquid.
Discomforted by your presence
till, by the salad veg,
I forget your soft brown eyes, prematurely weathered face.

I park the car,
turn off the heater
tuck the woollen scarf around my neck
before I get a trolley.
See you seated in the self same place
beside the automatic doors.
I’ve come prepared,
Drop my two pound coin into the paper cup.
Thanks, you say.
I briefly ponder homelessness
as I’m engulfed by Tesco’s,
The image – you inside your sleeping bag,
a bedraggled chrysalis,
stays with me till I reach the eggs.

I park the car,
close the windows.
Turn to fetch a trolley.
Any spare change? You, standing in the sun,
a full fledged adult moth.
I’m starving, you say.
I show both empty palms. No cash, I say.
But wait. I scrabble in the cars ash tray.
It’s all I’ve got, drop the single coin
into your outstretched hand.
But it’s not enough.
I’m at the toilet rolls still wondering
what that paltry pound could buy.

I find you in the trolley park
fixing a roll-up.
Present the ploughman’s sandwich,
prawn cocktail crisps
and buttered malt loaf – a ‘Meal Deal,’
Your thanks so hard it hurts.
Is this all there is?
Is respect, compassion, care,
reflected in a few coins here and there,
some food?

I park the car and get a trolley,
coins in hand.
Where you should be now stands
a rack of bedding plants.
I think of my own son. How, once,
I’d hoped a stranger would show kindness
were he in need, and move on.

Cate Anderson

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