when there’s not enough

Alana Kelsall

shoppers juggle packets of toilet paper ─ scatter     
tidy stacks to the floor ─ empty shelves gleam ─
                             Josie from the checkout ─ arms out
wide like a traffic cop ─ No! One packet per trolley! ─
and to the air around us ─ What’s happened to everyone? ─
I don’t know I say ─ watching the older couples lurch
                             away behind their walkers ─ why do I only
notice them now that I’m encased in this older skin ─
how do they get their supplies if there’s  none here and
no-one to help? ─ family? ─ online? ─
                                                       I blink away that rush of
worry ─ grab my to-do list ─ a technique I gleaned from
Sylvia Plath’s diaries years ago about how she coped  
with depression ─ another tickSee you can do it! ─
back then
                            I fell from a steep height after the birth  
of my third child ─ picture almost perfect ─ then this tide
would switch off the lights inside me one by one and I’d
know ─ tomorrow couch-bound ─ I swerve
into the baking aisle for flour and currants ─ a few years ago ─
that first puff of anxiety clutched at me ─ fear of the worst
family Christmas ever ─ had my list too ─ trolley loaded up ─
I was cooking a new recipe ─ why oh why? ─ my brain locked
                                       underwater ─ arrived at the checkout ─
the new person ─ Josie ─ asked what I was cooking ─ hefting
the bag up ─ told her I had the wrong recipe ─ had to put  
things back ─ no worries ─ take your time darl okay? ─
since then I often pass through her checkout ─ during
lockdown she told me about her breast cancer ─ meds in
short supply ─ the new ones had to be taken every hour ─
she mimed a frantic checking of her watch ─ Are you alright?No! I’m on medication! ─ I smile about her remission ─  
head for her checkout ─ grab a large jar of Vegemite ─
resist the urge to buy ten ─ chat with Josie instead ─
replace that burrowing fear ─   

Alana Kelsall lives in Naarm/Melbourne where she writes poetry and prose. She has won the Ada Cambridge and Sheila Malady prizes, and, prior to the recent lockdowns, performed at spoken word venues including La Mama Poetica. Her writing has appeared most recently in StylusLit and Teesta Review.



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