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.

Back

I have to step back
from the offer you make,
remove myself, now,
from that covert place,

return to the house,
leave fields behind,
stand at the window,
and draw down the blind.

I will stoke the low fire,
which throws no heat,
and turn from the hearth,
my retreat complete.

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.

Mahnmal

Never an admission
that our past was wrong,
our history sullied by
bloody pogroms,

we pale British are
so full of such shit,
on a pissy island,
we have set adrift,

an old sucking leech
imbibing low souls,
this country,
this country,
this island of fools.

Free Swimming

What do you wear
when off to the pool,
something quite flattering,
or nothing at all?
Something to cover
your large modesty,
or Speedos – to test
poolside probity?
Or do you cover up,
head to toe,
because such is your right,
wherever you go?

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?

On (Goat) Skin

No more ‘Great’ pre-fixed
to the Repeal Bill,
no more ‘Great’ in Britain,
it is the richest who will
command this state
as it recoils, reduces,
and they’ll pinch all that’s great,
leaving austerity bruises.

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.