The Last Fish and Chip Shop This Side of Town

A filament lighting a dark bulb of shops
the long counter and behind it hot plates
and vats stretch into pallid light out of
the rain. A row of customers waits
hands behind backs in the line’s cheerful democracy
under a calendar of three years ago

promising lawns mowed, pharmaceuticals
and cosmetics judiciously dispensed
ohms revived and a buxom chick on a motorbike
molesting a Chiko. A plastic jar offers
parka’d youngsters lollypops soft with age.

The one celebrity allowed, a grandchild’s photo
tucked in behind the till, seems to watch
Pete’s distracted routine, his way
of keeping track, pencil stub scratching
on a fat pad: “so what have youse got planned
for the weekend?”

Regulars check in to a conversation that goes on for months
too public for confession, too brief
for consolation, settled as a psalter.

He is the other ferryman,
the one who brings you back
who slaps your obolus on the counter
as if to say
belonging is still possible, it’s still possible
to desist from change, a river’s
slow shift into a harbour

from where, now – someone holds
the door open – we step outside toward
children drawing signs and letters
in the darkness
with their sparklers.

Isi Unikowski

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