Back of my hand

She does a couple of days a week

The money comes in handy

And the people make her work worthwhile

She knows their village and its seasons

Appreciates how this low land, becomes full and green

Then turns to golds and browns, flinted earth and frost

~

I’ve been a regular at the shop these past thirteen weeks

And she and I do not really speak

Bar necessities and niceties

Concerning the purchase of my essential shopping 

For milk, bread and cheese

And occasional meats

~

Although there was one hot midday

When I raised concern about a heathland fire

On my cycle ride along the coast road

I’d seen smoking, orange tongues lapping at the horizon

I promised that I would take a look

And let her know how things turned out

~

The A-frame in the doorway, positioned to cause hesitation

One customer in the shop at any one time

Please use the hand sanitiser before entering

Instructions that cause me to take a stooped backward step

To press the cool gel from the squirter fixed outside the door

And return head-bowed, rubbing dry my hands like Lady Macbeth

~

Now we Brits can meet outdoors and ride buses and trains masked

As modern-day Dick Turpins, stealing time from open spaces

While back at the shop, each day brings some subtle shift

New display shelves, with books, gift wrapping

Local postcards, an extended range of locally bottled beer

And now a Perspex screen hung neatly from the ceiling

~

Separating shoppers from staff just a little bit more

Deflecting breathes over the till, distancing further

I put a bag of flour on the counter

Realised it too far from the scanner

Reached out to move it closer to her

As she reached beneath the screen and accidently touched my hand

~

We both recoiled before she took the bag

And I stepped back a stride surprised

At the warmth of contact that left a gentle glow

That stayed with me as I left the shop

And slowly walked up the empty lane

After thirteen weeks of distanced pain.

~

n.b. First physical contact with anyone after thirteen and a half weeks of social distancing during the Covid-19 Lockdown, 2020.

Chris Perry

21st June, 2020

Salthouse, Norfolk