He shivered at my door
And in his hand he held
Multi-coloured clothes pegs which belied
The black around his tired eyes and
The whiteness of the knuckles that gripped them in desperation.
It was his final sales round he said –
As if we might imagine that door-to-door sales of clothes pegs
Hadn’t ended in 1979 with the garish caravans and bridled ponies that brought them.
He was sorry to knock so late.
He knew folk didn’t care to be disturbed after nine,
But it was our last chance for he was off to sell his wares in Orpington tomorrow.
Or was it Neasden?
He couldn’t remember but was concerned we might miss out
On an offer we couldn’t refuse.
He had lap-top screen cleaners too and,
Naturally, zip-lock bags. Everything you might need
At ten o’clock on a Monday evening.
My heart was full that night and
I had already been counting my blessings and taking the liberty
Of counting those of my friends and my loved-ones and
I had held Graham particularly close when we kissed goodbye that morning.
I said that the marker-pens in his bag looked especially lovely
And a large grin split his thin face as his pigeon-chest puffed out
With pride at the goods he had undoubtedly chanced upon
They were his favourite and he could certainly do us a deal
If I wanted the lot – although it would be hard to part with such items
At such a price. I had a kind face and it was late and his family was waiting.
For the move to London, I presumed.
I gave him a note, too big for the price, and as I passed it to him
Our fingers touched briefly and in that moment I knew
That he knew and he knew that I knew.
And I hope he knew that I wished him luck.