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Two boxes sat on the stone ground.
Jim and Barry watched them.
It was clear one was heavier than the other.
Jim, tubbier, over-fifty, felt that he
Should assume greater responsibility,
Perhaps even a mentoring protectiveness.
Barry, with younger lungs and heart,
Thought he ought to spare Jim the strain.
They looked at the boxes.
Barry lunged for the one nearest him, casually,
As though distance were the only factor.
It was the heavier one.
‘You sure you’re all right with that?’ said Jim,
Genuine concern with not-shirking and not-weaker.
‘I’m fine,’ said Barry. ‘If I struggle we can swap halfway.’
Perfect. Halfway was hard to judge but deciding it was easy,
Because neither wanted to win.
‘You okay there?’ Jim asked a decently paced two times.
‘I’m fine,’ Barry replied until, at a reasonable point,
With balanced respect and self-respect, he said,
‘You want to swap now?’
‘Sure,’ said Jim, calmly, unremarkably.
Published in South Bank Poetry, 2017