She tells me the whole universe
has to exist
for this moment
to exist – on a bus into town, where no one
knows her name. One stray atom, she explains,
burst from a fissure on a moon
like Titan, could've rocked her fate.
She opens her tin and pinches tobacco, the lurid
buds of green. You wouldn't have been born, she says,
crumbling the dope. And I could've been
a rocket scientist. She licks the paper and seals the roll.
I wouldn't be on this fucking bus for a start, she says,
looking for a lighter to fire up her joint.
You ain't got a quid have you mate?
You could look down into the River Soar
and see thick green reeds
wimpling in the glassy flow. There were bullheads
and sticklebacks, the rumours of a lobster
that was obviously a crayfish. I remember
when Mick Fairlight found an old kayak
rotting in the grass, and we carried it back
to his house on Goodes Lane
where his dad commandeered it, patching up
the holes with gaffer tape, before tying it
to his roof rack. It was a weekday, but he hadn't
worked for months so he had plenty of spare time
to drive us all down to the Gate Hangs Well.
His only real commitment was to fighting
his eldest son in the box room.
Anyway, he might be dead now, I don't know.
What I do recall is how he launched the kayak
from the pub garden, pushing it out into the river
and paddling furiously
as the frame collapsed and the water gushed in.
Nicholas Hogg is the author of Show Me the Sky, nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and Tokyo. His short stories have won numerous prizes and been broadcast by the BBC. He was winner of the 2021 Gregory O'Donoghue Poetry Prize, and twice shortlisted for the Eric Gregory Award for young poets.