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Updated: Dec 19, 2023

A small girl

kneels outside the pharmacy

and vomits quietly

from a stomach, already empty,

into the snow that sticks to Canterbury Street.

Her mum,

knees of her jeans wet,

holds the girl’s hair back,

pulling out tissues from anorak pockets

and whispering words to keep the girl safe

and to keep the girl warm.

I offer my help, my hand, my scarf.

Her mum shakes her head.

She doesn’t need my stuff but she takes the hug

like a gust of love from the cut of the cold

and we both lean in.

She’s scared she says of another long night

afraid and alone with her shadow-eyed child

and only the promise

of waiting lists and waiting lines,

online forms and GP calls

and A&E as a last resort.

I nod to the mum and her girl

and wish them good luck and mutter goodbye.

Luck is all you have, she says with a sigh.

if you’re cold and sick and only a child.

I know that we’re

living in dangerous times.

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