Solitary walking

I venture out for my permitted walk.
A tentative glance to the left and right.
Dog walker to the right, all clear to the left.
Decision of direction made, I set off.

Other decisions have already been made,
my world mapped as a patchwork of no-go areas
and permissible paths. Avoid the park, narrow ginnels,
the canal tow path, wide berth to shops and bus stops.

I tread the urban pavements and back streets,
never more than a mile or two from home,
avoiding other humans as if walking through
a leper colony, or crowds of importuning beggars.

My route zig-zags across the empty roads,
To overtake or get past others in my way.
Often a hesitation. Are they crossing? Who’ll move first?
Often a smile, sometimes a wave, a murmured thank you.

As the weeks have passed, mild embarrassment
has given way to a sympathetic recognition.
We’re all in this together, all in the same boat
on a journey of unknown length to an unknown place.

To a future that no doubt will contain echoes of the old ways,
but some lingering habits and lessons of our journey.
In the meantime, we must adjust to a world where
any one of our fellow travellers could be our killer.

Terry Wassall

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