I’d been down the far end
by those hopeless stockroom doors,
refreshing the last summer offers
before getting down
to the chews and litter just in for Pets.
Of a sudden they were there
as if cascaded down heaven’s chute:
heads and elbows thicketing the aisles,
mobbing the short-date bins.
I kept on drifting up and back.
I couldn’t help it.
A woman with three holy-curl kids
pulled down a jumbo of marshmallows,
stroked it like her youngest’s bath-night face
but went instead for a thinnish pack of swirls.
Cheers flopped into grizzles
south of her waist.
What was she thinking?
Swirls and we get to boil the kettle twice?
Jumbos and we don’t?
An aisle over,
two men studied the formulas for heart ructions
on the sleeve of a Korma-4-U
before shoving it back
and heading to all we had left by way of veg.
Were they computing too?
Belly plus oven works out at a three-jumper night?
All like that, it was,
as darkness fell outside and in.
I’ve never seen the leavings bins
reveal their mesh saddles so fast.
Were they all hoping that,
if they crept in at unfriendly hours,
they’d give the way of now the slip
and having would feel unreally theirs
for just a little while longer?
The one I’ll always remember, though,
is that old stick-furnished lady
who gingered a tin of peas into her basket,
edged away, returned, put it back like an empty locket,
edged away, returned – four times
before she could make it hers.
Such a look on her face
as the odd final sale pinged the air –
as if she were thinking all over again,
I’ll get these special with my coppers for Mam,
and when this lousy war is over
with no more soldiering for Dad,
we’ll feast as we did in all the lost russet-blush days –
three grins of peas
stretched as mighty as never
clear across whited bone.