All the pubs where we used to meet are sinking
The Little John is up to its knees,
The Lowther shoulder high,
The Kings Arms just keeping its head.
In The Bonding Warehouse, the barman
snorkels to collect empties
and only fishes remember what we said.
At The Cock and Bottle barstools are afloat,
banging against the window I looked out of
when you asked how I’d been and I lied.
Published in ‘One for the Road: Poems about Pubs’ (Smith/Doorstop 2017)
Nothing I love is rubbish
after The Lovers (The Dustman) by Stanley Spencer
My hair is grey but you made it beautiful
with your dirty fingers. When I look back on our love
nothing is discarded, not the cracked red teapot,
not the empty jam tin, not the cabbage stalks.
Take these mucky cord trousers, held up with string.
They were everything. Take my spotted shirt,
too big for the arms that held you; or this enamel jug
that dangles from my hand.
O, my grubby love, how I dream of you,
of your weary, soiled body which I will carry
past the picket fence, the clipped peacock, the white dog,
the broken crockery, the green feathers of my old hat
towards the open cottage door,
that glint of firelight, those tied-back curtains,
the stone lintel, the latticed window,
the man with the beard who is always looking up.
Published in The Stanley Spencer Anthology, 2017
The Stonegate Devil
He’s seen it all: mummers, buskers,
guildsmen pulling carts with wobbling tableaux
of flood, famine, crucifixion;
a couple choosing a ring in Walker and Preston’s,
a man hurrying another man’s wife
down the alley to Ye Olde Starre Inne,
drunks vomiting in the snickelway,
the purple cyclist on his purple bike,
The devil’s crouched on that ledge
since Coffee Yard was Langton Lane
and Stonegate The Street of the Printers.
He doesn’t need the gear in Old Guys Rule,
wears a black chain and a pair of horns,
his skin boiled lobster,
those hands on his knees a man’s hands,
his feet the feet of a goat
and, though you can see his ribs,
he has no appetite for the eggs
in Bettys display, the chocolate otter,
the hare or the candy daffodils,
does not thirst for the spirits
in the window of the Evil Eye
or the barrels in the Trembling Madness
where the missing student on the poster
Megan, we would love to hear from you
smiles her pretty smile.
Published in The Stonegate Devil (winner of York Culture Award, 2016) and in ‘The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry, 2017.