Donkey Work

I’m almost home with shopping when I see
a woman whom I know by sight: Nigerian, my age.
She sways along the pavement, pressing to her chest
a giant bunch of palm fronds, twice her height,
and praising Jesus in her language.
From the garden centre, yes, I think, but…
oh, of course, Palm Sunday coming.
Now she sees me and is glad to stop.
‘That’s quite a load,’ I say.
She puts it down and laughs and switches to my language:
‘Someone’s got to do the donkey work.’ And straight away
I see the aptness of the metaphor occur to her.
Her eyes enquire of mine; she sees I get it too;
from difference we recognise a common property.
We stand a moment. Then she sighs
and grasps her burden once again
and, singing, passes on.