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!’