Trapped for ever in this town
a green, open prison with too much sky,
too much surface area cooling quickly down
where spinsters and wealthy men who wear
ironed jeans scowl along supermarket aisles.
You serve them, burning up, desperate for
your share. Perhaps you have been forgotten
or the very best you deserve is a carnival
by the canal locks, featuring the local librarian
and her Silver Thread choir echoing into cul-de-sacs
through a P.A. system that plays
Devizes Hospital Radio simultaneously
while children that you used to be, drop their jaws
at the 70-something balloon-twister.
He has a fight with the puppet on his hand.
He makes them cry and rain darkens pavement and brick.
Swans refuse to be fed any more, to make givers happy;
what wring-able necks.
The supermarket clatters shut.
It’s light for hours yet.
You go to cross the street, stop on double yellows –
all these roads lead to relatives, or abattoirs
frantic through the night with pigs and cows, or worse,
bend back on themselves.
Unchecked, perspective bends its own rules
along skirting boards and dadoes,
fidgeting to please be excused.
The cutlery drawer is a convoluted mantrap:
primed, extravagantly painful
in novelty, stainless-steel ways.
A shower of high-speed Morse
on the sunroom’s cracked plastic
tells off of you in forensic detail.
Ragged Leylandii silhouettes lean in to earwig,
bristle like geed up mammals
devoid of faces, genitals, all but one stiff limb.
Tongue between teeth, careful,
you – talk – slower, for instance to a neighbour
about dried chicken blood as fertilizer.
His passion flowers’ fruit
is the product of fancy upholstery,
bubble gum and mouse livers.
Knots in pine blind-stare at Artex and lino.
Embarrassed, a handful of daffs droop trumpets.
The bomb in the clock is taking forever.
It’s 1:30 am.
He takes me away from the others unpacking,
opens the front door to the first night
in our first home and squirts WD-40
over both hinges, explains
WD is water dispersal,
NASA concocted this stuff
to keep fields of rockets
from turning orange, then burnt umber.
He heard this on his pocket radio
cycling along blustery North London roads
that cut between the reservoirs,
buffeted by daydreams of microwaves
and languorous AM waves,
walloped by the slipstreams of juggernauts
that don’t recognise bike lanes
on B roads where streetlights won’t work.
He holds up my key and lubricates it
with a quick squirt of the clear oil,
slips it still wet in the lock
to revitalise inner gubbins:
he knows all the proper names.
When I turn my back to come inside
this kind man takes the squeak from the gate.
Do you remember what I wrote
on the back of my German book,
about Miss Moore, as some sort of joke?
And how she sent me to Fossey –
he had old elephant’s ears
and a tin in his heart.
When I proffered das Buch
he churched his fingers
and told me to read what I’d written
then read it again, but this time
so the words could hurt us both properly.
I read and he leaned back
away from me.