A small girl
kneels outside the pharmacy
and vomits quietly
from a stomach, already empty,
into the snow that sticks to Canterbury Street.
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.