Sunday, December 26, 2021

Since The Gorbals

Actual stories involve little encounters
With littler encounters in them
Each smaller encounter closer to fiction

Four older people in a Dollar store
On a Thanksgiving afternoon in Caliente
Town of a few hundred remaining souls

Surrounded by rail lines and rocky desert
One is the frizzy-haired and heavy-set
Pallid white woman working the holiday

At the only business open in town
The other three just drifting through
Including a tall Back man in a coat

Who smells a bit of stale cigarette smoke
Plus his partner who is even frizzier
Paler and heavier than the cashier

And a very short white man with a cane
And a long white beard to his chest
And at first no one says anything at all

The out-of-state customers wander
The aisles and nearly intersect
As they collect their odds and ends

Then the partnered pair go to the counter
And chat to the clerk as she rings them up
Until the woman decides to return an item

And the tall man waits for her to do that
And the little man now waits behind him
And the tall man still chats and steps back

Nearly tripping over the little man silent
Behind him I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there
I’m easy to miss says the very little man

You’re just so quiet the tall man protests
Not wanting to seem to be making small
Of the small as the clerk chuckles Yes

You were quiet all around the store
And the tall man to be jovial adds
I bet you weren’t quiet twenty years ago

We all start out rowdier don’t we?
The small man waiting considers this
Seriously as if it were a serious suggestion

And then says I think I was rowdier then
But maybe I was always kind of quiet
By which point the clerk has rung him up

And the extra-frizzy woman ambles back
But as she and her partner turn to leave
The little man asks What part of Scotland

Are you from? so that the extra-frizzy
Woman wheels in delight to say Glasgow!
How did you know? People guess Ireland

All the time or even England which
Is just incredible and the small man grins
Through his beard and says loudly Great!

Rolling the r hard so that the delighted
Woman coos Oh that was very good!
He adds I spent a winter in Glasgow

In The Gorbals back in the early eighties
And gives her a significant look
The Gorbals! Oh that’s rough she exclaims

You know they’ve all gentrified now
Tore all those all old slums down
Oh no! I thought where will the poor go?

Dearie! She calls to her partner who is
Already half out the door This man knew
I was from Scotland straightaway!

He lived in The Gorbals for a year
That was a hard hard part of town!
The tall man turns and smiles I see

And the quiet little man now loquacious
Says One Sunday morning pissing rain
As usual I was just walking down a street

When I hear a building alarm and then
A minute later this pale scrawny fellow
Comes legging by me carrying a huge

Boxy TV set with the cord still dragging
Like a tail and off he goes into the rain
He grins O! the Glaswegian woman says

That was The Gorbals alright but
They’re all changed now all changed
I try to go back but it’s been a few years

The tall man chuckles Did they scare you
Back then? Oh yeh Laughs the small man
Happily I’ve been quiet ever since

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