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The Walker

Already old when pointed out to me,
he was a special feature of the town:
the grocer’s man (retired). For forty years,
six days a week, he’d walked round villages
and farms, and stood at doors to write down lists
of groceries, the orders for the week:
a woman’s voice, his fountain pen, his book.

This way of getting trade had had its day.
The grocer kept him on to 65,
then told him, kindly, that he’d have to stop.

No longer fit for work, but fit to walk,
at first the pensioner maintained the same
six routes, the same six days, for exercise;
he liked to be outside and on the go.
When modern traffic finally destroyed
his pleasure and his peace, he reckoned up
how many circuits of the small town park
would be an equal distance. There he was:
black-suited, bowler-hatted, keeping count;
an object of amusement to the young.
To those who taunted him, he gave no sign.
To those who greeted him, he raised his hat.

He got to 93 before he died
one morning, pulling on his walking boots.
He’d done some mileage. If he’d been a van
(that ancient first one that my father owned),
his clock would long ago have clicked beyond
the line of nines, then zeroes, back to one.