What then..?
by Phil Kirby

What if, one plain afternoon
of a season-changing day,
you’re walking in some pedestrian city -
past white-haired partners arm in arm,
past paper-sellers and the homeless
smudged into unused doorways,
through the reverb of a trilby-hatted crooner
busking by a lamppost –
and a woman you might have known
walks by, her orange cardigan
(apricot, you realise later) flickering between
passers-by, making zoetrope scenes
from a life you might have led, in which

you learned to cook a fricasee,
did not put butter in bacon sandwiches
or boiling water onto fresh coffee;
bought clothes at Austin Reed’s and ate
sashimi by a jazz café; picked up,
perhaps, the rudiments of yoga;
and later, when you’re years apart
and she’s spent time abroad
and hankers after home, she sends
a text to say that she’s in London now,
to say it’s all so howling and confused
she wonders why she never moved away;

so that, as you cross the road,
a question and its answer fall into place:
could you have loved her as you do
this woman, whose leather-gloved hand
is, right this moment, seeking yours?

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