clad in a shapeless woollen jumper,
handing out paper bags
for 2nd hand books. she stumbles
over small talk and fumbles for
petty cash

waiting at the sign
for the no 9 bus, she twists
her umbrella strap tighter
and tighter, watching lights
welcome families home,
listening for the bark of a dog

some nights she mixes an extra glass of wine with gin
and lets her neighbour fuck her with his fat cock.
she won’t make a sound except when he starts
and sometimes when he ends,
but she likes it best when he leaves, creeping across the hall
when he thinks she’s asleep

other nights she calls her mother
and lets her babble
about holidays in the past
and the rising price of eggs.
her tone of voice sickens her,
as she considers safe ways
to dispose of a corpse

most days she’s so bored
she cries in the shower.
gritting her teeth
to restrain a scream
and trying to drown herself

she thinks she might be in love
with the book seller down the street.
he sells his books
in an alleyway. his scraggy hair
and tobacco breath
keeps customers away
but he gives books to people
he likes

he left her a beaten copy of ‘Papillion’ on the counter
but she hasn’t made time to read it

only once have they said more than three words,
but she cut them off.
she worries he might smoke heroin
or slap women when he’s drunk
or worse, be one of those bohemians
who vote conservative