Monday, 24 March 2014

The Kindness of Strangers

Pete cuts my bread roll
butters it, and
spreads the marmalade.

I expect you’re not supposed to do this, I say.

No, but... I think
If it was me
I would want someone to do it for me.

My eyes fill,
tears run down my face,
and drip onto my plate.

Pete looks so anxious - that I lie
 I’m fine, I say
It’s just the pain in my arm.

He moves on to the next bed.

I cried - because
this man I do not know
was kind to me.


My Weetabix comes in a plastic bowl,
the yellow wrapper bright and shiny.

Brenda unwraps it for me.

I went to town on Friday, she confides,
and bought some new boots.

Milk is sloshed onto the Weetabix
islands marooned in a white sea.

They’re brown suede
and have lovely stitching ‘round the top.

I nod

Got them cheap I did ‘cos they were last year’s style,
they couldn’t sell them - too tight they were on people’s calves.

I’ve got lovely slim calves, she says
raising the hem of her uniform to show me.

They’ve got furry lining
so I won’t have to wear tights with them.

I start spooning my cereal - now sloppy
in its white disposable bowl.

Tea or coffee? Brenda asks me
wielding the giant teapot over the cups

Tea, I say.

Half price they were, she continues, a real bargain.
She looks pleased.

Brenda stirs my tea for me,
and places it in reach

You’re trouble you are, she says - and winks.
She moves her trolley on to the next bed

Tea or coffee?

© Sylvia Perry

From A Kindness, published by Poetry Space Ltd in 2013

Footnote: The ward domestics – “Pete” and “Brenda” 

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