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.

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.

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.