Poems

I Couldn’t Find You on the Internet

It’s not clear why I’m suddenly

thinking of you―you of all people.

It isn’t because of a dream

or an old photograph

or somebody mentioning your name.

I was unpacking a bag of groceries

and I’d reached the cut-price plums

but it can’t be anything to do with plums

because I’ve bought them many times before

and nothing ever happened like this.

I can actually see you

brushing the hair out of your eyes

in that wacky way of yours!

Bread. I also bought a loaf of bread

and a bagel but so what?

Or more to the point, Why?

I was the one who lost touch.

I never answered your last letter

―which was thirty years ago―

and eventually forgot you completely.

But now it seems that I haven’t.

And it’s got me confused.

I can understand why my feelings

should flip from friendly to uninterested

but I can’t understand why

they want to flip back now.

I googled your name

and it came up dozens of times.

But the Welsh comedian wasn’t you

and the joiner/carpenter

who supports West Ham

and listens to Sons of Regret wasn’t you.

None of them was you.

Maybe I ought to back off.

Maybe it’s over after all.

 

Sweet Ivory

Home time, Broad Green, Liverpool, 1950―out of a rainswept schoolyard,

through a jangling door and into a sticky heaven. And there beneath a naked bulb,

behind a row of thick glass jars, stood Mr Cakebread with his scoop,

tipping the Salter Scales over the quarter-pound of aniseed balls for a penny.

 

Gobstoppers, blackjacks, Trebor Mints, dip dab, Yorkshire Mix,

chocolate-pink-and-orange-sandwich-biggies, bubble gum and acid drops.

The mysterious jujube, too hard to chew. Packs of pink and pastel-blue refreshers,

sharp as an angry smack across your face.

 

What never crossed my mind was who had tilled the Caribbean fields

and cut the sugar canes. And who had worked the rolling mills that pressed

the cane to pulp and mashed the cane juice bubbling in the vats.

I never thought to ask. All I asked was what a threepenny bit would buy.

 

In 1950 wages were reduced by a penny in the shilling. Windows were smashed

and motor cars damaged. The Governor was jostled and struck. The Riot Act was read

and the crowd fired upon, killing two men. At midnight a British warship arrived

and a state of emergency was declared …

 

The women gaze out across the bay, wearing liquorice allsorts headscarves,

talking of washing machines and laughing at bad luck. They have the scent of molasses

on their clothes. A ghostly hand traces a signature on a bill of lading. Long-dead

workers in the boiling houses lour, their anger burning slowly down to ash.

 

Walking Football

The old men on the indoor pitch surge forward

tortoise-like, pass, dribble, feint, attempt a header

now and then. Sometimes the ball rolls to a stop.

There’s no-one on the touchline singing or cheering

and the ref’s a PE teacher from the Tech.

The score hardly matters: we’re talking fitness,

getting out, improving everybody’s self-esteem.

It’s a bit like Saturday morning aqua class, but this

is for the seniors and no-one has to get undressed.

A sudden burst of movement on the wing

takes everybody by surprise. The outside left

is almost running, stumbling really, but his way is clear.

He shoots, the ball spins sideways off the pitch,

the goalie straightens up. But no-one groans:

they’ve almost reached full time and everybody’s won.

Afterwards, they stand around the vending machine

and sip their decaffs, tell a joke or two and reminisce.

There’s talk about an entry for the Walking Football Cup;

it doesn’t come to much. They say goodbye with promises

they’ll be along next week: what had gone missing,

sparse fleeting moments, coming into view again

as they walk together through the busy streets,

their shadows scoring hat-tricks in the sun.

 

Brief Encounter

 lights     traffic     pedestrians

 

I caught your eye

and your smile (crimson explosion)

 

handbags     raincoats     dodging     lampposts

 

Seeing you in the street, my once-love,

coming towards me

was such a surprise after so much time.

 

You didn’t look away!

 

Time had stopped,

sewn us into the same instant,

but the crowd pulled

and the silver thread                       parted.

 

 

 

 

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