Sheffield Park, East Sussex

The wide open workshop
was beyond my education
(three terms of metalwork
forty years earlier was never
any kind of apprenticeship).

Greased tools, backs bent to it,
at components, stripped elements
of dead men engineering,
here exhumed across scale layouts
of locomotive parts, almost lost

until men in overalls, and tilted caps,
pulled on levers and tools to fix
the lines from one shut station
to another, suffered, under Beeching:
to get the steam into the pistons:

Our kids milled, kicked at ballast,
and were more intrigued by a ring tone
than the scale of rod-shoved wheels,
and steps so high, halfway to Heaven,
for these men, so we left the engine shed.

The Poll

That drab civic room,
where we had voted,
here the Parkinson’s
support group met:

a chesty (badged) lady
offered us coffee,
pamphlets were handed,
flicked, to be kept.

A clipboard was passed,
to take names and numbers,
and to indicate interest
in meeting again:

My wife bent down,
plundering her handbag,
pulling out a tissue,
here the ending begins.

Walking on Water

Arlington Reservoir vibrated,
that low bowl of gust-cut waves,
the quantity now the difference
to my previous walk here,

that and my end-of-day inability
to route march any more:
as a kid, returning from school
they called me ‘Bell-fast’.

A stared sparrowhawk, high,
worked miracles to remain in place:
I am the opposite of that bird,
landlocked, working to move.

The gravel scuffs, my soles wear,
it hurts, even in these boots,
and because I have sent myself
back before the rest, I must

sit at the car park and wait.
My youngest is the first to return,
and to hide my accelerated pain
I ask to be taught to skateboard,

and as I stand, held by him, unsure,
the wind drops, and I balance 
as on a small boat, not quite Galilee,
but hoping he still believes in me.

Dancefloor

From above a radio drones
whilst the clippers whine
across the reddened neck
of the gentleman’s haircut.
Lined cars rumble outside
as gusts cross the threshold
and push the trimmings,
snips, hairy tumble weed,
from beneath the two-step
of the rug-cutting barber,
who never seems to struggle
with small talk on the floor.
Done, he attends to, brushes,
the now-vacated chair,
and gentlemen look sideways,
who is next on the dance card?

St. Anne’s Hill

My father died
aged fifty-five,
I was aged
twenty-three,
he slipped away
at St. Peter’s:

My mourned dusk
then came back,
as I was buried
in the haunted dark,
under the canopy
in Buxted Park,

back to his story,
as we three ducked
through the woods
on St Anne’s Hill,
our fears fostered
by his ghost story.

Solstice, Uncelebrated.

Today the sun tipped-up
at four forty-three,
kicking cats and dogs:
it then will scathe across
the sky for sixteen hours
and thirty-eight minutes
(plus eighteen seconds),
which will be the longest day
over a liquiescent London,
before dropping out
twenty-one minutes
after nine: hated.

Heated

A few weeks back,
this summer,
and I would be stood
in a mist,
but this ridiculous
month of June
offers no such
cool sleights
as I stick-click,
lop-sided, alongside
the sucked-slouch
of the muddied Uck;
then hollered at
by the diesel’s sad call
as it sights
the unattended crossing,
and all the time,
across Manor Park,
bedroom windows are flung
in an un-English surrender
to the day’s heat
still found in bricks,
as the padding fox,
so thin,
sets off the estate’s
choir of panting dogs.

Sleep Walking

It arrived in the night,
thickened, from within,
that sulking infection
of continental heat,
not the slimmest hint
of a breeze to relieve
us, laid out, moribund
on our double bed,
with kicked-off duvets
and a great distance,
because we are rolled
from each others’ heat.

The Sleep

I am naked on our bed,
upright, pre-slept,
at the gracious request
of my funked body:

It asks, politely,
at first with a flicker
across my eyelids,
felt as light tremors,

then it rudely produces
enormous weights,
conjurer’s tricks,
strapped to my arms,

followed by an elephant –
it places that, too easily,
across my bared chest:
Now I am breathless,

on awkward pillows,
on those between knees;
I claim this space
for my night’s reprise.