Saturday Collection Duty

by Lia Brooks

When visiting the city I take envelopes. I keep them
      in the baggy pocket     of my wax jacket. When someone

passes on the high street I take up a few stones
from their footstep     and seal them away. Each person has

their own envelope. I plan for eleven each visit, but I am
      not disappointed when I return with nine. My choices

are guided by small things – sun on an earlobe,
      wind caught at the corner       of a loose coat. It might be
a raindrop bleeding outward on a shirt-cuff. But the moment is fast

and there is little time for any conscious thought, only an instant
of feeling like the glorious     snap    of fingers, and I know to bend
down as they step past. Recently, I saw jam        at the corner

of a man’s mouth, bent to collect the gravel and knew
I was wrong.                 There is too much weight in the red jam
      on a man’s face. Certainty is a child or an elderly woman,
and never a man. Returning home that day to label

and stack the envelopes in the dining-room, I reminded
      the small things of their weight. The man is         one of many
who can never be collected.       It is   how it is. And crying was useless –
measurement has its own sorrow. I have never taken stones

from my own footstep. I confess        I have wanted it. In the way
      two people hope to touch each other but never will, I pretend

it’s happened – someone has stooped unseen, like I do
when I’m working, and        has taken them. I lift above the cold bodies

of the high street, sail that way for a remarkable distance and live.