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The bus, its doors still open, is about

to depart on schedule. A young mother,

with a toddler, is talking loudly

on her mobile in the bus shelter,

telling whoever it is that she lacks

the fare and will wait for whoever it is

to bring it however long it takes.

Should I offer to give her the fare?

How would she react? How it would look?


With a pneumatic sigh the doors close.

I turn. She is still on the phone, clutching

the little boy’s arm. And I suddenly

remember – how full old age is of

memories that come like revelations –

rough chalk marks on our modest gate posts

and tramps, caps in hand, at the back door

of the small, thirties rented semi, begging

politely for a ‘cuppa’ and a ‘slice’,

before they had to enter the workhouse,

around the corner, or after they left it,

and my grandmother supervising

her daughters dispensing charity.


If I had been able to have asked them why,

seemingly alone in that aspiring,

suburban avenue, they would entertain

such guests, albeit on the back doorstep,

I know they would have answered, in surprise,

‘Why? You give what you should!’




© Copyright David Selzer
6 Responses
  • Ian Craine
    March 22, 2014

    And finally this one, perhaps the best of all. I remember tramps coming to our back door in Newton and my mother giving them things, food, hot drinks. I have an image of her boiling up hot water for their tea. They (or he) had big grey overcoats with big matching grey beards.

    This is a really good quintet of poems, David, the memories coming like revelations.

  • David Selzer
    March 23, 2014

    Thank you, Ian. As always, your comments are both telling and encouraging.

  • Doreen Levin
    March 24, 2014

    David, so many windows alive with long forgotten memories opened in my mind as I read your poems. You have a wonderful way of painting pictures with words. I salute you, and wish you many more years of inspired writing.

  • John Huddart
    March 25, 2014

    A further 3 part gem, encompassing the present and the past, and highlighting values that have changed, and without saying it directly [which I suppose is the purpose of poetry], not necessarily for the better. The moral authority of “You give what you should” is so better than doubting whetheryou should in the first place, which is the poem’s other scenario. The poem doesn’t judge us, though, because it’s clear all of us would do the same, presented with the same bus stop scene. What’s judged is the condition of our world, again!!

  • Sharon
    March 26, 2014

    I am really taken in with ‘The Coat Hanger’. What a story it tells, like so many left-over remnants in the closets of our lives. Beautiful writing….

  • Kate Harrison
    April 24, 2014

    We were talking last week about ‘gentlemen of the road’ with their routes and voluminous overcoats. Our house must have also been marked as we had our cyclical visitors for a cup of tea and a ‘piece’, maybe a new pair of socks. There was usually a spare pair as hitchhiking cousins would turn up. They were welcome but their socks were not!

    Cash at the bus stop ? I’ve done it even when not completely convinced. It’s only money!
    Looking forward to reading through this.

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