Shopping Trip / by stephenherronold

Five years old.
Wide-eyed in the city.

Wrapped up against the drab grey cold,
My mother's hand pulls me through
The dreary sullen streets.
Boarded-up shop windows
Await new glass.
Metal gates block the streets
From everything but the buses.

This all seems normal to me. 
Wondrous, in fact.
Compared to what? I'm only five.

Getting into the city center
Means walking a gauntlet
Of English accents, uniforms, guns.
I'm patted down, like my mum.
The man tousles my hair with genuine affection.
He might be dead a week from now.

Grey things growl past,
Followed by armoured things.
Metal, wire and glass I watch, impressed,
Missing the point.

A pause as we enter the shop.
Waiting for another uniformed man
To search my mother's handbag.
A line of other mothers waiting.
For more of the same.

A sense of urgency,
A surgical strike. 
No messing around.
In and out, get what's needed
And go home.
Just in case.

A childhood less ordinary,
Better than most.
They kept me safe,
Kept the distant thunder