! The Lovebirds
We used to call them 'the lovebirds':
by Michael Shepherd
you couldn't miss them -
they were like some miniature, but very human, sculpture;
in their sixties I'd say,
neither much over five foot, the same height;
he stolid, compact, focussed; cap; sometimes a pipe;
she, always nicely - quietly - dressed,
different hat each day, in careful rotation,
different dress each day in summer, likewise;
and they walked, arms so tightly linked
as if they were discovering each other's companionship
each step of the way
and had done for - what - forty years?
They walked like a couple
striding through the world together
even though their strides were small, like them.
I reckoned they were Polish, I don't know why.
I'd see them from the pub window in the morning
walking quite fast for arm-in-arm;
then in the afternoon, he'd go off alone
walking slightly faster but stolid with it,
I guessed to see his old army pals at the Polish Hearth
under the wide painting of the Pripet Marshes;
sometimes I'd see him returning, impassive as ever
later in the afternoon, as if from a meeting well carried out.
And you know how it is with people like that,
that you see and notice every day -
you don't know whether you really want to talk, make their acquaintance,
or not -
they're so complete, self-contained,
and been through a lot together, I'd guess.
Children? Sometimes you can guess, sometimes you can't. Dunno.
I missed them for a time.
One day, the local charity shop
had a window full of hats.
I recognised them, all so gaily displayed;
and felt somehow personally offended.
I missed him for a time.
Now I see him walking past in the afternoon,
unchanged in manner;
The only difference
is that every day he puts a plastic bag of domestic rubbish
into the small street bin that's not meant for domestic.
I don't know why that affects me so much.