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?
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.