Jesuit life · Reflection · Uncategorized

Life at a Good Price

Recently our novice-master asked us to consider where we have found God in our lives. This ‘divine location’ could be in anything big or small, anything obviously important or seemingly insignificant. As it happens, I was already quite aware of the presence of God in two of the ‘everyday’ or ‘normal’ places that are part of my Novitiate life. The first is the inner-city markets of Birmingham, which I love wandering around and getting ‘lost’ among the many merchants and their wares. I hardly ever buy anything on these serene Villa Day visits, but a few weeks ago I felt moved to jot down some lines depicting the events and emotions the market stirred inside me:

 

Life at a Good Price

 

A daysaver won’t save the day

But it’ll take you somewhere far away.

Not in distance, but in depth,

Deeper than the bubble you’ve just left.

The market’s our stop, don’t think twice:

Soul is in stock and it’s

Life at a good price.

 

Life at a good price!

Black eyes, black hair.

Black skin, black belt,

Black boots, bright stare.

The bus-stop babe embarks and blinks,

Applying mascara in-between the corner-slinks.

 

This service terminates at Generic City Centre,

Alight here for high-street chains with repetitive agenda.

Like adverts for that chicken place

That haven’t changed for years:

Bun, beige, bacon, beige,

Barbecue box and chips.

Drumstick, sweetcorn, lettuce, sauce

Call it a ‘Boss’, lick lips.

Come to take an antidote with a variety of spice:

Soul is in stock at the market and it’s

Life at a good price.

 

“Come on let’s get amongst it,”

A husband beckons wife,

Who accepts his invitation into

This epicentre of real life.

They dodge the clipboard evangelists

Under a sky of grey:

Beautifully ordinary and dazzlingly dour

Just like the unfolding day.

 

Epileptic vegetables spasm with African technicolour

Sirens of vibrant fruit pierce the previously drab rain covers.

“Two for a paaaund, seedless grape”

The market bells reverberate.

“Two for a paaund, seedless grape”

Jangling between the ears and crates.

“Two for a paaaund, seedless grape

And d’you know love since I’m nice…”

Yes, soul’s in surplus in this place and it’s

Life at a good price.

 

Meanwhile ‘Mick the Meat’ pulls up,

Fresh from the abbatoir.

His champagne eyes bubble in their domain

While he spreads his patter caviar.

The prince of pork chops preaches

From his refrigerated pulpit:

“Eat meat, be happy, love life, God bless

And that’s four pound twenny poppet”.

She hands it over dotingly, while he slowly serves her slice:

You don’t see that in Sainsbury’s it’s

Life at a good price.

 

A myriad of mint piles up like the price tags in my mind.

A kaleidoscope of cauliflower is combed and carved so kind.

“Advocaaaado! Gotta go!”

Rumbles the next town-crier with bravaaaado,

His ciggy-stub wriggling before a bearded-plantain guise

He’s got the lot, his soul’s in stock it’s

Life at a good price.

 

*In a matter of footsteps the effervescent veg slides into a sunset of speckled silk which flickers in the tickles of the wind. Local-paper boards stand sentinel outside the entrance to this marketing Mecca, blaring bland hyperbole from an undoubtedly ordinary week. I’m swept inside by a breath of chip-fat and this next instalment from these stalls in cement can commence*

 

There’s overalls all over, purchased by old dears,

For their fellas and sons who man the guns at Vauxhall or John Deere.

Get your trenchcoat from Old Trafford,

Your camo from Benghazi

Or your high-vis vests for the high-speed tests of the roadside illuminati.

Any gear for any man, these stalls shall suffice:

Still supplying the stuff that earns a

Life at a good price.

 

The lipstick shop with sparkly slop, it pouts away in pink.

Eyeliner blare, extended hair or something to enhance your blink.

The fragrance stall near floats away on a cloud of essential oils.

It’s owner nurses a tuna lunch, and a black eye for her toils.

From ‘Angel’s Stare’ to ‘Frankincense and Myrrh’ via ‘Honeysuckle Ice’,

The clambering clients of incense smell

Life at a good price.

 

Kids transfixed on Disney and their latest character’s beam,

Morphing onto duvet sets from the nearest cinema screen.

Teens trudge into the rain outside with an air of desperation

Hoping to find some sanctuary at the glowering bus station.

The joy and fear it intertwines, like scratching and headlice:

Nought to sixteen realise the dream of

Life at a good price.

 

A cardboard cut-out policeman, oversees the scene,

Perched on patrol above the van selling Bovril, chips and beans.

Microphoned heroes warble, live on Market FM,

“Right here, right now, free sample somehow, only from our den”.

He’s got an amazing offer, an amazing giveaway

“Right here inhale the Intimate Male, from Jean-Paul Galtier”.

 

Now we’re entering the last section, where the eyes and noses itch.

The Conger eel has had his last dance and now can’t summon a twitch.

His slayers wear white wellies, braying hardly soft.

Enoch’s British Butchers, where the Union Jack’s aloft.

Opposite are the Halal pits and the Chinese minimart glows.

Illegible noodle packets scream, like a wall of weird gameshows.

 

Feel your spirits deflate under a painful exit lobotomy

As you’re reintroduced to perfectly-spruced city centre monotony.

Breathe in the liberation from the reality of this story.

The market, our decolonised Poundland, our land of hope and glory.

It’s now a weekly requisite, I’ve allowed it to entice,

My soul take stock at the market ‘cos it’s

Life at a good price.

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