The Intrepid

A man sits on a single-decker bus-
His gratitude for the mundane,
Even the unpleasant, surprizes him.
What is that cheap aftershave?
Behind it is the odour of a fattish man.
A black woman’s long braided hair-
Where do the extensions begin?
The plastic handrails swing softly…
He is even grafteful for the travel sickness.

He leaves the bus, the sky is thickly blue,
A new denim blue scratched at
By whisps of cloud.
Sun brilliantines the upper floors
Of the buildings opposite him.
Careful!
Anxiety begins to gnaw at the man’s gratitude.
He checks his breathing-
Is it clear? Is it?
While he flicks through second hand books,
A woman begins to hoover,
The dust scares him,
The hoover scares him.
He worries about his breathing, hesitates,
Then leaves.

He turns the keys quickly in the lock
They sway, ringing unprettily…
Back at home, the gratitude reappears.
He has seen heat shimmer above the railway bridge,
Making liquid the view of houses beyond it,
Like the lines that distort his view
Of the dried flowers on the windowsill above the heater,
Like these lines, like this distortion
But not hopelessly familiar.

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