Three Poems In These Viral Times


P a u l   S. L.    B r o o k e s



bread for seven days. In shops.
marvels with a smile

at the blocks of bread.
he brings to my till.

These were the last two.


He spot’s a flaw.

One of the loaf’s blue packaging
split down it’s serrated edge:

a pair of jaws full of individual
longwhite teeth.

I can’t take this. Take it back.

I say the bread is ok. Just the packaging…

No, the bread is hard.

I arrange a refund.


This Saturday morning the shop
is a glut of emptiness.

Labels advertise, like headstones
what is missing

We wait on the delivery.

It is late today.

No Sugar, pasta, flour.
We apologise to customers,

some in decorator’s facemasks.
Others wear ordinary gloves, mouth covered

by handkerchiefs like bandits
in childhood cowboy and Indian films.

Once delivery arrives

it is a joy to fill the spaces.

Often in the same motion,
customers take what you have just placed.

3.  BACK Off !


She gestures with her surgically gloved hands.


Back off! Take a step back

Two Metres.

Aren’t you listening?”

she bawls at me in front of my till.

And customer’s in her queue.

Back off! I know what I’m talking about.

Two metres. I’m a professional.

I ask whether she wants change.

Arms length. Arms length.

I stretch to hand her change.






Author’s note:

Three poems for a work in progress about my experiences working in a food shop during these strange viral days.

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