The Secret Life of Ginnells
As Autumn exhales
Its first toke into night air,
Let's exercise our dogs
Or our melancholy
Down the long, linear narratives
Of ginnells. Careful -
Step over that trail of piss
As it meanders an epic
Safari through micro-canyons
Of uneven tarmac, decades old.
These aren't merely pathways
But assault courses set up
To test the balance and bearing
Of men too drunk, now, to drive home.
There's one, enjoying a final
Indulgence alone. He cups
A sputtering lighter to his face
And recomposes himself
To look sober and unguilty
Before opening a door
On the wife and bollocking
He accepts on behalf of all
His sorry age and sex..
Leave him and his sins to sleep.
Come morning, we'll be
Tramping down raggedy tunnels,
Hot on the heels of the postman,
Or, later, where feral kids
Rose-bud windows for a dare.
You see how ginnells work on us?
The angle adjusts itself
Finely, the incline slips away
And this self-same depository
For crisp-packets and coke cans
Becomes a sudden keyhole
Into a lonely man's epiphany.
At the telescope's far end
There's something on plain brick
You never would've thought
Worth setting sights on. Look, now -
By way of all that's no longer
There to distract you from it. Light.
What do you mean you can't see it?
Vision is not Essential
In March, when the light comes on strong
I can feel the difference on my skin
And it always triggers a memory
Of the laburnum. The stems are weighed down
With petals heavy as grapes - so yellow -
I'd never seen anything make better
Use of the light between clouds - each cup
Bodied and brimming with the gift of it.
When I hear youngsters swearing in the road -
Their heavy footballs ringing hard off walls -
I think of the laburnum. Above the fags
And beer cans, the tips of its stems
Are beckoning the light - directing it in
To land and ignite the bulbs in my head.
The Sound of Sense
Two gangs o' lads clashed in T' Man'ole car park; one local
and t'other - Steve reckoned -'ad legged it from Halton Moore,
tanked up and giving it blah, blah, blah. Spenner's girlfriend
said they were druggies, screggers, council-wallahs. Law piled in -
two meat vans an' a dog van - so punctual you'd think
they were expectin' t' Brighton Bombin'. It were past ten.
Chris 'ad been 'ard at it since six. E'd nipped for a fag
an' a breath of second wind when 'e saw two coppers
'ad pinned one lad face down amongst t' broken pop bottles,
while another took a running kick at same cub's 'ead
like 'e were attempting a conversion. Our officers
of t' peace didn't welcome an audience; soon enough
t' strong arm were bearing on Chris wi' some words o' caution.
Chris said 'e would've laughed in their faces but e'd had
run-ins before and knew this wasn't right time or place
to make like a protest singer. They dragged t' laddy off
into t' meat van, and as Chris were walkin' back up t' steps
to t' tap-room 'e sez 'e could 'ear this pup screaming summat
like 'get it out o' me, get it out o' me…' When I asked
What all that were about Chris gave me a look and said
at my age it were time I worked things out for mi sen.
The Last Workday Before Christmas
They'd had me facing flak from angry suppliers
wanting final payments before the Christmas break.
The policy round here was make the bastards wait
then wait some more - until you broke their trust for good.
Phone call after phone call was leaving me uptight -
that's why I locked my desk and binned my party hat
and blew my final afternoon in The Turk's Head.
Alone made perfect sense. I drank another toast
to liquidation soon.
A young guy in a suit
flirted with the staff: he bought everyone a round
and his smile was sunlight off stacked corporate windows -
blinding. I could see him with my job, fast-tracking
through jammed figures in dodgy books - a magician
disco-dancing through the Great Wall of China.
I downed three flat pints, each with a whisky chaser
before I bristled through the crowds to the station.
On the teeming platform a woman with your smile
and ballet-dancer's poise had reached out for the arm
of a disembarking student - and he'd waltzed her.
I thought of the scene awaiting me back home - you
sleeping off another binge on the unmade bed;
fresh cigarette burns following an artery.
Once, I thought I'd be the one to make a difference,
but you re-invent your story every day. Love,
I've no idea what I'm supposed to bring you now.
As the train picked up its speed I let its motion
press me in my seat; imagined we were a shuttle
climbing high into the violet smoke that floated
from the brewery.
When I slumped off at Crossgates
frost was icing the grit on the far embankment
like Christmas Past. I spied my teenage self, kicking
and dancing amongst the crystals of broken glass
in a bus-shelter. Something shifted in my guts,
warping through my breath. It all came back to me then -
a moment like his with no thought of the future.
I fretted my keys and looked back at the city -
lit up with the small lights of other people's lives.