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2 poems by Cliff Yates


Off for a walk up the hill I bump

into Phil just back with a bag

of shopping and Pi on the lead,

he’s locked himself out but luckily

left the window open, the ladder

out front tied to the railings with cable tie

and a handy saw to cut it loose.

I take hold of Pi’s lead and foot

the ladder. The window’s not high up

so the ladder’s near-horizontal and Phil

shins along on his hands and feet

bum in the air like a monkey, edges

through the window and there he is!

top of the steps, the front door open

like a magic trick. He’s left the radio

on in the kitchen, Radio 4 someone

who went two rounds boxing with Bob

Dylan. Phil’s coming with me,

he’ll drive us half way in his van

so we can walk on the top without the climb.

We pass Daisy Bank, take the next

left. It’s popular here, Phil says,

especially on a day like this,

and he tells me about an article

in The Psychologist saying how

democracy’s in danger, a psychological

perspective. Pi charges past us

grinning with his tongue out. It’s Claire

who subscribes to The Psychologist

but Phil reads it cover to cover, he says

it’s the best thing to read on the loo

along with the Screwfix catalogue.

When I get back Gill says, you’ve caught

the sun, have you seen your neck?

Fish Street

We’re staying on Fish Street which sounds about right

l-l-l-learning how to b-b-b-b-breathe my head

feels unaccountably light and when I lie on the bed

I flop like a child or a dog.

We buy strawberries from Norway Stores

grown on Phil’s allotment he harvests them

in May June and August, they call him Strawberry

Phil’s Forever and suddenly anything’s possible.

We grate the cucumber because the knives are no good

and in the Co-op on our way to the checkout with a family

pack of Kit Kats for the cinema, the woman in front of us drops

in slow motion her bottle of wine (pink in this light)

and the boy takes forever gathering the glass

with kitchen roll, dropping it into the black

plastic bucket, dabbing the pink, as if he has

bandages wrapped round his hands.

The bathroom’s full of sunlight, either that

or we’ve left on the light, but just after midnight

woken by the wind rattling the window

I can’t see to write and the light would

disturb her so I open the door of the fridge

and crouch on the carpet in front of the carton

of eggs, the remains of the cheese, the garlic,

the milk in the door.

She buys from the Guildhall a hat that looks

like straw but is made out of paper, you can fold it

to shove in your bag, look! how it bounces back.

Is it for the sun? / No, she says, it’s for showing off.

And after chips on the seafront and the walk

up the hill, we perch on the chrome bench,

suitcases beside us out of the rain

and watch the crow in the car park

pecking the tarmac in bay twenty-nine,

the tide going out on Porthminster beach.


Cliff Yates is from Birmingham. He has published nine books and chapbooks of poetry including Henry’s Clock, winner of the Aldeburgh prize. A New and Selected Poems is forthcoming from Smith/Doorstop.


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