She’s pouring Tizer when he hits her,
the glass jolts, its liquid
She closes her bedroom door
this unordinary Wednesday, leaves
the note she hoped would say more.
They’re watching television.
She turns the backdoor key, remembers
the sound of a bandsaw,
grandfather squinting into the sun,
Vauxhall Viva seats too hot to sit on.
Those dark thunderous Sundays.
The street looks longer, smaller.
From this garden she stole flowers.
Over this wall she scrumped apples.
In this Figure of Eight park
she caught eels in jars.
For Claude Conway 1924-1993
What I like about my job
in the paper shop
is finding his car outside, at five,
ready for Jackson’s fish bar.
I lean on the warm counter –
pickled eggs and gherkins
lined up like specimens,
and shut my eyes
to the crackle of fat,
the splash of vinegar,
and the man serving
whose missing finger
might become a sausage
and end up in my chips.
I nestle them close
and as the windows mist,
watch his hands steer
and change gear.
I draw a heart on the glass,
write his name,
watch it disappear.
I pass his classroom on tiptoe,
I can only see his hair
through the half-frosted windows.
I walk by like this at break, lunch
and on the way to assembly.
I make up questions
only he will know the answer to.
We talk poetry,
a reason to stay on after school,
the minutes pass too fast, I talk too fast,
arguing over caesuras, each word.
And after, I walk my dog outside the gates,
wearing my grown-up clothes,
trying to time it with his red car going home.
He is shouting at her in the street,
Shut your Quasimodo mouth,
bitch. She protests, he goes on,
Don’t twist and change things.
I’m telling you how things are.
This woman in denim and flowery shoes
He empties her purse, counts the coins,
goes off. She says to the ground,
why don’t you believe me?
I want her to go
before he comes back.
But here he comes, smiling,
swinging four cans of Strongbow.