The Mile to School

I magicked the East Coast Main Line
out of Fullbrooks Avenue’s lamp-posts:
Peterborough, Grantham, Doncaster, York,
Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Berwick,
terminating at Edinburgh Waverley.
Most days I was the Flying Scotsman,
my Lincoln-green livery gleaming,
or streamlined Mallard, chic & blue.

When I braked by the zebra crossing,
the Alan Whicker lollipop man—
who drove a cream Triumph Herald convertible
& butchered part-time at the Co-op, gifting
his champion sausage to special customers—
held out a bumper bag of Opal Fruits
for an eyes-closed lucky dip. I longed for
strawberry or orange; learnt instead to savour

the decadent tartness of lemon or lime.


High Wire

On a good day, which, by the sunrays
tripping through the cumulus, this could be,
when my toes reach along and my heel
presses down to finish the foothold,
my thoughts sometimes wander
to the possibilities of lunch—
fine dining at La Pesca with the crew,
or the remnants of yesterday’s fennel risotto—
and how I ought to buy a new pair
of red-and-white wire-walking shoes,
custom-made in Milan; but today,
when I step out from the small door
on the thirty-first storey’s breeze-block roof
and balance upon the beautiful tautness
stretching my mind, I sense
after just my seventh tread,
and know for definite on the eighth,
that three-quarters of the way to the other side
the banshee winds which scrape my face
would send me plunging like a gannet;
so I devour consciousness
as if it’s the last and greatest meal of my life,
arch my toes upwards
and ghost the eight paces backwards
to a frosted shot glass of grappa.


King for a Day

No-one could’ve been more surprised than Tim
to find himself at the apex
of a motorcycle formation team,

a perfect pyramid of human bricks
proceeding along the High Road
past the soon-to-be pulverised gasworks

where, this glorious Good Friday, a crowd
frenziedly applauds Tim’s chutzpah
for standing in for the usual hothead.

Tim wishes he hadn’t worn a jumper
beneath the petrol-blue leathers
because his sweat is rendering him damper

than an up-ending pintail’s feathers.
Now he’s stretching out his arms
like Jesus, a care-free sign that gathers

the approbation of the patriarchs
leaving St Joseph’s in the sun,
while the magically balanced team makes

its way to the Guildhall, where everyone
related to them congregates
with hooters and banners and everything—
and Tim’s coronation awaits.


The Boating Lake 

Plying a pedalo, the sole customer frowns
beneath his fringe because the coastal breeze
has saved up its breath for a right good go
at billowing into storm mode. Over the swell,
he can’t hear the teenage attendant, who really
doesn’t want a drowning on her shift; but our man,
coxed for Leander in his youth so he steers
an impeccable course through the tempest
to step triumphantly from craft to shore
in as fluent a movement as the pitch-perfect poise
of a maverick Olympic yachtsman.


The Skip 

In no time after arrival that morning
at number nine, it was full to overflowing
with everyone else’s shite, from all along

Tennyson Terrace. I’d itched to stay up late,
well past my bedtime, to watch the neighbours nip out
by moonlight and deposit the usual tat:

mattresses stained with a Turin shroud of spunk;
an analogue telly that would break a man’s back
if he lugged it on his own; three-legged chairs, Coke

cans, clotted condoms; miscellaneous crap.
But what no-one expected underneath the heap,
when at last they carted it off to the tip,

was a head- and limb-less Caucasian man,
whose identity the Police would never learn,
in bloat stage; a gutful of maggoty churn.

I curse like a barrow boy for missing my turn.



‘The Mile to School’: Poetry Salzburg Review
High Wire: Tate Modern website
‘King for a Day: Magma
‘The Boating Lake: Nth Position
‘The Skip’: The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016, Eyewear Publishing, 2016