Country Pub

Before this evening’s
swell of punters fill
empty wooden tables

we solemn few near-sober
slow pint daytime drinkers
take our lost afternoon
over equal measures

of flat beer and crisps
as that occasional hour hand
slogs around to grind out time

in this low muttering pub –
until intuition says Go now –
before those commuters
turn up to sip more bullshit


Closing Times

Now – be forever consigned
to coughed-up-banter nights
at your threadbare old boys’ club –
propped behind spewed pints
of pump-drawn gut-brown beer

Your bent still good arm lifts
three quids worth of bowel-stripper
Last orders
and so a knocking back of pints
from unequal paid down rounds

And then that hundred-yard stagger
off to your desolate place –
a much less enticing thought
than just one more pour of best

A background outdoor chat
leaves you stood stock still

Now shuffle once more
with your pocket of shrapnel –
to be put in that jar in your hall

#GreeneKingPubs

These pulling places are rammed
by limp cocks and hard-to-hear voices

by forty-year-old bent coppers
and pitch-hoarse salesmen

feasting on glimpses of wagged butts
and – if lucky – being eye-felt back

as unsteady rounds are re-summoned –
until each wooden table holds it own

glass city of empties and knock-backs
All until that briefly-sweet inebriation

sours outside under high sodium lights
to illuminate empty fists and nose bleeds

and stage two kisses between strangers
All until that night’s confusions have melted

into soft-edge recalls and squeezed regrets
over sinks and basins – until we go again

Comforts

A pint on a Monday – at lunchtime?
Things must be bad – Michael –
And so they are – but I only offer lies
above salted crumbs on my table –
small pieces – but shiftable boulders
to summer’s soon-invigorated ants –
able to heft such burdens of others’
relative insignificance – of leftovers –
But that is a season away – along with
beer-swilling wasps and longer days
of enough light to keep me
from the pub and beer on Monday


Ghost Holes

This bar’s serving hatch is always left agape –
tonight I see it is a varnished picture frame
holding unfair perspectives of the pirouettes
of the not-Degas barmaids in uniform black

In this pub’s cellar are floating phantasma –
I am often told – here under my pint-fixed feet –
below the boards – Orbital corner-of-the-eye
lights are known to cross the cold stones

They are – the old boys also claim –
fixed by the presence of the town’s tunnels –
those mislaid smugglers’ rat runs now
bricked up within the dead-end arches

Other spectres are regulars in the saloon –
they bother the rushed staff and punters
from their precarious stools – a feat in old age –
added up they would predate electricity –

and then they shuffle off – with chains of change –
shifting between the bogs and their tall thrones –
always back on their seat to summon spirits –
from the optics – but not with their pensions

The Pig & Butcher

Friday lunchtime, slumped, re-arrives,
a shuffle of septuagenarians departs
as I place my pint, and my backside,
at a mat-free table in the lounge bar:

Two regulars take on slack scampi,
and one more pint for the road;
the barmaid’s sweet pull is too great,
so they stall, longer, the return to work,

and I sit, supping at the old familiarity,
that which Wetherspoons cannot fake,
also poorly replicated in English Pubs
in New York, and pop-up Asian cities:

You cannot make these spills and stains,
the rough wearing, long-worn by the repeat
of orders, of rounds, of social patterns:
They will never decode this pub’s DNA.