Monday, 13 February 2017

'Jacqueline Burdett'

Jacqueline Burdett  (from a forthcoming anthology).

We were in the same class
at primary school.  Shared
the same birthday.  One year
were told to stand up
so the room could sing
and toast the nothing we’d done.

Slight, she was, freckled:
tawny keeps coming to mind.
Already bringing on a bit of a stoop
to oblige the afterwards.

You’d glimpse her
slipping out to play,
edging the shadows
of the manager’s son
and the town-clerk’s daughter.

She answered each question perfectly
then retrieved her stillness,
putting the world away from her
till called upon again.

She rarely smiled,
perhaps never,
certainly not the day she and I
held an end apiece of coincidence,
like a pageant-flag
golden from a brush of sun
fluttered in a pocket of wind.


Saturday, 21 January 2017


(Appearing in my new collection, 2017.)

Stuffage, n.  a jokey term for stuff, things; material with which something is stuffed; figuratively, details added to a scene to aid its realism: eg, in a painting, television series, film.
That’s you on the far left
or at least your arm and shoulder
plus a smudge that might be
your head turning
you were toe-to-toe
with immortality
all the others foursquare in shot
went on to rule the world
or anyway hammer its bones
till the birds fled
to the passes of the moon
a shame then
that on the cry of hold it
you heard your name
wobbled your place
finding out after
that the name was only almost yours
and anyway belonged
to someone the photograph
hadn’t planned to know.

You were fourth anxious customer
tumbling out of the shop
when the coaching-inn next door was surrounded
and the fleshy absconder
lying low as a potman
in the Tudor-village-cum-petting-zoo nearby
was brought to book
you could have stolen all the moment’s light
but the chap tumbling out before you
saw fit to pause
and adjust the lie of his trousers

so all the hereafter will chance upon
is a flap of your cagoule
next to a window poster
of rebates and teeth for the aged

series two episode seven it was
with that young South African actress
who during a break stepped into the space
where your shy hello was dying
and balanced her laughter on it
at her puppyish co-star
mimicking a tree.

Big do
summer in heels and sweaty humour
Bride’s lot or groom’s?
demanded a face
made for sputtering pastry
you said and said again—
just trailing a featureless day
through the grounds
so you could watch it being much the same
against a fresh run of houses
the look in his eye seemed to make you
not there
till Ah he said they’re on the move
as organdie and money and tails
massed at a distant lych-gate
Oh he said there’s…damn I should have
…look could you just hold this?
and he was gone to not listen elsewhere
you still hold this
sometimes it lounges
by the hall telephone
sometimes it scares the shelves
you searched and searched
but he and the rest
had long thrown the dust-sheet
over the church
and all was left again for the likes of you—
coat-backs disappearing
sketches of numbness on upper decks of buses
but this
this will always mesmerise
whether you move it or it moves itself
like a god strayed
from an unknown faith
speaking of those
who have the trick of sunlight
and whistle it to unveil them
wherever they choose to be.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

'Under-Smoothers Pursuivant of the Summerweight Duvet.'

'Yes, Tigger tweeted that the list was out.'
'Tweeted, Piglet?'
'Oh dear.'
'Apparently Sleaford Mods missed out again.'
'What…not even Under-Smoothers Pursuivant of the Summerweight Duvet?'
'Not even that…not even a pair of Obe-wans…'
'The thing with Sleaford Mods is, they don't push themselves forward.'
'Actually, they got themselves invited to Beatrice's party.'
'Really, Piglet?  Where she cut open Blunt Ed Mumford's face?'
'Apparently.  But only on condition that they had the sword.'
'Plus any bows of burning gold and arrows of desire that were knocking about.'
'Sounds reasonable.  How did they get on?'
'They didn't.  Letter arrived relegating them to Jobseeker 10,000.'
'There must have been a reason for doing that.'
'Oh, there is.  There is.'

Monday, 19 December 2016

Nipping up the Pitbull

'Well, anyway, Tigger says he'll be submitting a tender to run it next year. Complete shambles, he said it was.'
'Sorry, Piglet, what are we talking about?'
'That…thing, that…Nine Lessons and Carols thing.'
'What happens with that?'
'Well, you know, this time of year, lots of people out there going into one of those drafty places with a spike.'
'A catheter.'
'Yes, they all pile into the catheter and then there's a sing-song and then nine ladies all called Carol take it in turns to go up the steps to that…that wooden effort…circular, you know, with--'
'Yes, each goes up in turn to the pitbull and gives a lesson.'
'Nine lessons? Take all night.'
'Oh, no, they're not lesson lessons…more, sort of, handy hints.'
'Oh, I see,'
'Yes, so Carol One, she might say, I don't know, put a layer of kitchen towel in a plastic box with a tight lid and then your salad won't wilt.'
'Well, not as fast. It'll still wilt when you're not looking.'
'Then Carol Two nips up the pitbull and says, having trouble with your odometer? Try this simple fix. Or something.'
'Ah, I see.'
'Apparently there's always one Carol who says many a mickle makes a muckle.'
'Oh, well, that's a handy reminder.'
'Isn't it, though? I mean, you might be running late, brain all over the place, halfway down the street and it's, oh gawd, where's me muckle? But never fear…'
'As if I would…'
'…you can hunt down humble mickles to an equivalent value, local rates permitting.'
'So what went wrong, then? This year?'
'One of the Carols was indisposed. They had to get someone else in.'
'True as I'm standing here or standing wherever I was standing before I stopped.'
'Well, there's a thing.'
'Yes. Festival of Nine Lessons, Eight Carols and a Trish.'
'Dear me. Well, I hope her lesson made up for it.'
'She said something about pricking out.'
'Good grief. In a catheter?'
'Pooh, I neither know nor care which receptacle she had in mind.'
'As well you might neither nor. thing…'
'Yes, Pooh?'
'Couldn't this Trish lady…I mean, couldn't she have called herself Carol? You know, just to fit in?'
'Ah, now, Pooh, Tigger says things are bad enough in their post-tooth world without making it worse.'
'Post-tooth? Is that what they're in?'
'Revenge of the Chocolatiers, Pooh. On account of tariff fluctuation.'
'I had a touch of that this morning.'

Sunday, 18 December 2016

'Elliot Street' (Saskatoon, December)

Elliot Street

Saskatoon, December.

A small clearing some hundred yards or so
from city traffic.  In another place,
a village green.  Triangular, guarded
by year-end snow, the fingerbones of trees.

My place, my country. I come here each day
to watch the snow uneven out, the chase
of fog mites in the clearing-lamp, to hear
the ghost leaves of old Augusts at their talk.

Beyond, the morning and the evening cars
hoot and fishtail through the trees, but mostly
all’s quiet as fidelity and lets
the stations of the day move softly by.

I’ve tried where the cars go.  A traveller could
do worse than happen on a space like this
where nothing’s asked or thieved, where the bitters
of time unsour and fall beneath the snow.