Ladies' lingerie in a large department store, next to the elevator. I'm buying a bra. Beside me stands a very old gentleman leaning on a wheeled walker. He is soft-faced, white-haired and drooping, like a tired bell flower. He's paying for something, I think his store account. He has cash in his wallet, which he lays out slowly and carefully, note by note. The salesperson says she won't keep me waiting long. I laugh and say ‘No problem, I was in a sort of daze. I have to do battle with my health insurer next, so I don't mind waiting'.
I'm much taller than the old man, and covertly glance down at his profile, his fine pink skin flecked with age and sunspots, the vulnerability of his shiny scalp through baby-fluff hair. His voice is clear and well-modulated, with a dry, humorous edge. I think I would like to sit down with this man and talk about things we remember, things we enjoy, things which make us happy, things which make us weep. The old man thanks the cashier, turns before he leaves to bid me good-day, and good luck with the health insurer. I say goodbye and think of age, and death, and loss, and pain, and sorrow.
i could conjure up
all the loved faces
a news report listing
the ages of the dead