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.

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.

No Angel

He endeavours to be
one who ‘can’,
not a bit-part, paused,
not half a man,
not battled to bend,
with rusted mettle,
he’ll hold her at night,
unmasked and settled:
No more a young man
in the place reserved
in God’s waiting room,
which others deserve:
Grant a slow decade,
ten years of good life,
please God, he asks you,
for his kids, and his wife:
Re-set their happiness,
that for his spouse,
he won’t demand space
in your over-filled house.

Contrails

The words
‘under contrails’
rounded on me,
those raised scars,
high gatherings
of man-made clouds
over this county,

the icy remnants
of others’ flights
to warmer climes,
and I was grounded
by the weight of my foot
after foot:

I no longer dream
of taking off,
arms wide,
a kick and up,
but I leave a trail
of sorts.

The Card Shark

Today I faced up to The Future,
a rather distrustful chap,
he bowed low
before my person,
but this man is full of such crap:

The Future doesn’t regret,
never stays in the present to say
what his timings hold for us,
and what of ours will now remain.

Bonfire of Certainties

A bonfire of all certainties
has been built under me,
of timbers, in unseen hands,
crossed over and laid
on a cold heart, that core,
of devout-snapped sticks.

The ninety year old fell
and they discovered
her riddle of cancers.
“She shouldn’t be alive.”
But her bonfire was doused:
“I’m happier,” she sung.
“I have assurances.”

This told to me as I was driven
by the old woman’s nephew,
through Puglia’s stone veins.
I felt my own bonfire
lit, and you, my wife,
have to bear the heat
of this, the cruellest of fires.

Numbered

He was born too late for ’21,
by ’68 he burnt with the charge:

Delivered 1950 in Bogside,
(part-named after Pope Pius XII),

the second of seven of Derry,
by fifteen years old a butcher.

Then to other blood at eighteen,
(after Fitt was struck in ’68),

and just one year later he was
Derry’s second-in-command:

A man at twenty-one counting
the dead after a bloody seventh day.

Politics’ cloak worn in the early 70’s,
but Mountbatten died on Shadow V:

Your man was the IRA’s number one,
that day when eighteen sons died.

By ’93 he was welcomed in London,
seeking peace within Number 10.

He lived 3,500 weeks, two sides,
and over that time 3,500 died.