Bookshop Exchanges poetry

Text: Louise Carter

The homeless of Glebe seem to work in shifts

and I’ve come to see them as colleagues of sorts –

after all, we’re all hustling for cash in our own way.

On Saturdays, a man sits outside the chemist,

his shaking cup of coins like the sound of crickets  

or cicadas. He greets me as I’m hauling out the cheap

crime novels, remarking on the sunny weather.

Then, to a passing local: Any spare change

for the homeless? Later, I’m cleaning the windows

with Windex when a guy walks past, holding coffee

and a cigarette. How’s your mum doing? asks

the homeless man. She’s dead, he says. She went

last night. Standing there in sunglasses and sneakers

he doesn’t look particularly bereaved, but then again

what does bereavement look like? I thought

she’d last longer than that! says the homeless man.

Yeah well, he sighs, she didn’t. The other night

I gave two dollars to the lady who sometimes

nods off at my desk when I’m converting her coins

into notes. I can sense that there’s kindness

and wisdom beneath the drugs. How are you?

I asked. Not too good, love. I’ve got a massive boil

on me leg. The pain was evident. Her work ethic

is stronger than most – she’s usually there

long after the bookshop shuts, and whenever a person

walks straight past, she says Have a lovely day.


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